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This series of SCANDINAVIAN MONOGRAPHS is published 
by the American-Scandinavian Foundation to promote 
the study of Scandinavian history and culture, in the 
belief that true knowledge of the North will contrib- 
ute to the common profit on both sides of the Atlantic 


















A MONG the many arguments that have recently 
-L\. been advanced in support of imperialistic am- 
bitions and statesmanship, there is one that justifies 
and demands aggression in the interest of human 
culture. According to this rather plausible political 
philosophy, it is the destiny of the smaller states 
to be absorbed into the larger and stronger. The 
application is not to be limited to the so-called 
" backward races"; it is also extended to the lesser 
peoples of Europe. JThese have, it is held, no real 
right to an independent existence; only the great, 
the powerful, and jjbf ""flk+y ^an^im th*'? priYlr, 
lege, for they alone are able to render the higher 
forms of service to civilization. 

To this theory thft hiatniy. of foe SngT^]'na.vJ5i.-n 
1fl.TlHs r>TQVid**iSf cl COmpl^t** fl' st^kinpf tvyf 1 1 tn/h nr| n 

In the drama of European development the North- 
ern countries have played important and honorable 
parts; but except for a brilliant period in Swedish 
history (chiefly during the seventeenth century) 
they have never weighed heavily in the Continental 
balance. /Their geographical situation is unfavor- 
able and their economic resources have never been 
comparable to those of the more prominent states 
beyond the Baltic and the North SeaA But when 


we come to the kingdom of intellect the story is a 
totally different one. The literary annals of Europe 
in the nineteenth century give prominence to a 
series of (notahle_gcandinavian writersWho not only 
achieved recognition in their own lands but found 
a place in the competition for leadership in the 
world at large. The productivity of the Northern 
mind is not of recent origin, however; the literatures 
of Scandinavia have a history that leads back into 
the days of heathen worship more than a thousand 
years ago. 

Perhaps the most effective illustration of vhat a 
fruitful intellect can accomplish even when placed 
in the most unpromising environment is medieval 
IcelandLJ Along the western and southwestern 
coasts of the island lay a straggling settlement of 
Norwegian immigrants whose lives were spent 
chiefly in a struggle to force the merest subsistence 
from a niggardly soil. And yet, in the later middle 
ages and even earlier, there was a literary activity 
on these Arctic shores which, in output as well as 
in quality, compares favorably with that of any part 
of contemporary Europe. {Evidently intellectual 
greatness bears but slight relation to economic ad- 
vantages or political powerj What was true of Ice- 
land was also true of Norway, though in a lesser 
degree. In that country, too, life was in great 
measure a continuous struggle with the soil and 
the sea. Still, even in that land and age, the spirits 


were active, the arts flourished, and the North 
added her contribution to the treasures of Euro- 
pean culture. 

The poems and tales of those virile days, the 
eddas and sagas, are too familiar to need more 
than a mention in this connection. But the fact 
is not so commonly known that the medieval 
Northmen were thinkers and students as well as 
poets and romancers. They, too, were interested in 
the mysteries of the universe, in the problems of 
science, and in the intricate questions of social re- 
lationships. In their thinking on these matters 

d more int.plWtiifl.1 

less slavisJLregard for venerable authority thap was 
usually the case among medieval writers. And of 
all the men who in that agf of faif K tnVH to analyse 
and set in order their ideas of the world in which 
they moved* perhaps none drew more largely on his 
own spiritual J^sourcfis than the unknown author 
of the King's Mirror. 

Unlike the sagas and related writings, the pur- 
pose of the King's Mirror jg utilitarian and didactic. 
The author has before him a group of serious and 
important problems, which he proceeds to discuss 
for the instruction of his readers. Consequently, 
certain qualities of style that are often associated 
with Old Norse literature are not apparent in his 
work to any marked degree. In his effort to make 
his language clear, definite, and intelligible, the 


author sometimes finds it necessary to repeat and 
restate his ideas, with the result that his literary 
style is frequently stiff, labored, and pedantic. 
These defects are, however, not characteristic of 
the book as a whole. Many of its chapters display 
rare workmanship and prove that the author of 
the King's Mirror is one of the great masters of 
Old Norse prose. 

In preparing the translation of this unique work, 
my aim has been to reproduce the author's thought 
as faithfully as possible and to state it in such a 
form as to satisfy the laws of English syntax. But 
I have also felt that, so far as it can be done, the 
flavor of the original should be retained and that a 
translator, in his effort to satisfy certain conven- 
tional demands of modern composition, should not 
deviate too far from the path of mental habit that 
the author has beaten in his roamings through the 
fields of thought. Peculiarities of style and expres- 
sion, can, it is true, usually not be reproduced in 
another language; at the same time it is possible to 
ignore these considerations to such an extent that 
the product becomes a paraphrase rather than a 
translation; and I have believed that such a ren- 
dition should be avoided, even at the risk of erring 
on the side of literalness. 

The importance of the King's Mirror as a source 
of information in the^study of medieval though^) 
was first brought to my attention by Professor 


Julius E. Olson of the University of Wisconsin, who 
has also, since the work of preparing this edition 
was begun, followed its progress with helpful in- 
terest. Professors G. T. Flom and A. H. Lybyer of 
the University of Illinois, and Professor W. H. 
Schofield of Harvard University, have read the 
manuscript in whole or part and have contributed 
many valuable suggestions. My wife, Lillian May 
Larson, has assisted in a great variety of ways, 
as in all my work. Dr. H. G. Leach of the Ameri- 
can-Scandinavian Foundation has read the proof 
sheets of the entire volume and has suggested 
many improvements in the text. To all these 
persons I wish to express my thanks. I am also 
deeply indebted to the trustees of the American- 
Scandinavian Foundation whose generosity has 
made it possible to publish the work at this time. 

L. M. L, 

University of Illinois, 
August, 1917. 















DOM " 




SUN 92 





































HALL 186 














TORY 234 










OF GOD 283 



























INDEX 373 



THE place of the thirteenth century in the history 
of human achievement is a subject upon which 
scholars have not yet come to a general agreement. 
There can be no doubt that it was, on the whole, an age 
of progress in many fields; but there is much in its his- 
tory that points to stagnation, if not to actual decline. 
From a superficial study of its annals one might be led 
to class it with the lesser centuries ; most writers are in- 
clined to rank it lower than the fourteenth century, and 
perhaps not even so high as the twelfth. It was in this 
period that the crusad^P rnnvpmpnt. finally flicfcerfifj ft 1 it 
and the Christian world was compelled to leave the 
cradle of the holy faith in the hands of the infidel. In the 
thirteenth century, too, the medieval empire sank into 
hopeless inefficiency and all but expired. Hue. papacy, 
which more than any other power was responsible for 
the ruin of the imperial ambitions, also went into de- 
cline. Whether the loss in authority and prestige on the 
part of the holy sec^ was compensated by a renewed 
spiritual energy in the church at large may well be 
doubted: what evidence we have would indicate that 
the religion of the masses was gross and materialisticA 
that ethical standards were low, and that the improve- ) 
ment in clerical morals, which the church had hoped \ 
would follow the enforcement of celibacy, had failed to \ 
appear. J 


Yet the thirteenth century also had its attractive fig- 
ures and its important movements. The old social order 

bnt in its p1a.ce Appeared two 

fnrpps wliiVh wpre to inherit tjip power a.nd nppor- 

gnpjfl.1 ]jfp' these were 

wide sovereign powers, and 

the new national consciousness, which was able to think 
in larger units. In England the century saw the develop- 
ment of a new representative institution, which has be- 
come the mother of modern legislative assemblies. The 
Italian cities were growing rich from the profits of Ori- 
ental trade; in the Flemish towns the weaver's industry 
was building up new forms of municipal life; the great 
German Hansa was laying hold on the commerce of the 
northern seas. In the realms of higher intellect, in 
science, philosophy, and theology, the age was a notable 
one, with Roger Bacon, Albertus Magnus, and Thomas 
Aquinas as the leaders, each in his field. The century 
also meant much for the progress of geographical knowl- 
edge, for it was in this period that Marco Polo pene- 
trated the mysterious lands of the Far East. 

As the historian looks back into this age, he is, there- 
fore, able to find broad traces of much that is regarded 
as fundamental to modern life. Of first importance in 
this regard i^the employment of popular idioms in liter- 
ary productions^French literature saw its beginnings in 
the eleventh century with the chansons de geste, songs of 
valorous deeds from the heroic age of the Frankish 
kingdom. In the next century the poets began to use the 
themes of the Arthurian legends and sang the exploits 
of the famous British king and the knights of his Round 


Table. A little later came another cycle of poems based 
on the heroic tales of classical antiquity. The twelfth 
century witnessed a parallel movement in Germany, 
which at first was largely an imitation of contemporary 
French poetry. The poets, however, soon discovered 
literary treasures in the dim world of the Teutonic past, 
in the tales of the Nibelungs, in the heroic deeds of 
Theodoric, and in the exploits of other heroes. 

Thus in the first half of the thirteenth century there 
was a large body of French and German verse in circu- 
lation. The verses were borne from region to region and 
from land to land by professional entertainers, who 
chanted the poems, and by pilgrims and other travelers, 
who secured manuscript copies. In the course of time 
the new tales reached the Northern countries, and it 
was not long before/the Northmen were eagerly listening 
to the stories of chivalrous warfare, militant religion, 
and tragic love, that they had learned in the southlands^ 

The Northern peoples thus had a share in the fruitage 
of the later middle ages; but they also had a share in 
their achievements. Politically as wpll a 
the thirt-mith fpntnry wn* Q "Ta,t 

rmvifm fmiintrimi The Danish kingdom rose to the high- 
est point of its power under Valdemar the Victorious, 
whose troubled reign began in 1202. Valdemar succeeded 
in extending the territories of Denmark along the entire 
southern coast of the Baltic Sea; but the greatness was 
short-lived : after the defeat of the Danes by the North 
Germans at Bornhoved in 1227, the decline of Danish 
imperialism began. In Sweden, too, men dreamed of 
conquest beyond the sea. Under the leadership of Earl 


Birger, the most eminent statesman of medieval Sweden, 
Swedish power was steadily extended into Finnish ter- 
ritory, and the foundations of Sweden as a great Euro- 
pean power was being laid. 

During the days of Valdemar and the great Birger 
Norway also reached its greatest territorial extent. After 
a century of factional warfare, the nation settled down 
to comparative peace. All the Norwegian colonies except 
those in Ireland, were definitely made subject to the 
Norwegian crown : these were the Isle of Man, the Heb- 
rides, the Orkneys, the Shetlands, the Faroes, Iceland, 
and Greenland. In every field of national life there was 
vigor and enterprise. And on the throne sat a strong, 
wise, and learned monarch, Hakon IV, the ruler with 
the " great king-thought." 

The real greatness of the thirteenth century in the 
North lies, however, in the literary achievements of the 
age. It is not known when the Old Norse poets first be- 
gan to exercise their craft, but the earliest poems that 
have come down to us date from the ninth century. For 
two hundred years the literary production was in the 
form of alliterative verse; but after 1050 there came a 
time when scaldic poetry did not seem to thrive. This 
does not mean that the interest in literature died out; 
it merely took a new form: the age of poetry was fol- 
lowed by an age of prose. With the Christian faith came 
the Latin alphabet and writing materials, and there was 
no longer any need to memorize verse. The new form 
was the saga, which began to appear in the twelfth 
century and received many notable additions in the 
thirteenth. The literary movement on the continent, 


therefore, had its counterpart in the North; only here 
the writings took the form of prose, while there liter- 
ature was chiefly in verse. 

These two currents came into contact in the first 
half of the thirteenth century, when the men and women 
of the North began to take an interest in the Arthurian 
romances and other tales that had found their way 
into Norway. In this new form of Norwegian literature 
there could not be much originality; still its appearance 
testifies to a widening of the intellectual horizon. In ad- 
dition to sagas and romances the period was also pro- 
ductive of written laws, homilies, legends, Biblical 
narratives, histories, and various other forms of litera- 
ture. It is to be noted that virtually everything was 
written in the idiom of the common people. Latin was 
used to some extent in the North in the later middle 
ages, but it never came into such general use there 
as in other parts of Europe. In the thirteenth century 
it had almost passed out of use as a literary language. 

In our interest in tales and romances we must not 
overlook the fact that the thirteenth century also pro- 
duced an important literature of the didactic type. For 
centuries the Christian world had studied the encyclo- 
pedic works of Capella, Cassiodorus, and Isidore, or had 
read the writings of Bede and his many followers who 
had composed treatises " on the nature of things," in 
which they had striven to set in order the known or 
supposed facts of the physical world. The thirteenth 
century had an encyclopedist of its own in Vincent of 
Beauvais, who produced a vast compendium made up 
of several Specula, which were supposed to contain all 


the knowledge that the world possessed in science, his- 
tory, theology, and other fields of learning. The age also 
produced various other Latin works of the didactic sort, 
of which the Historia Scholastica of Petrus Comestor 
was perhaps the most significant for the intellectual 
history of the North. 

Norway had no encyclopedist, but the thirteenth 
century produced a Norwegian writer who undertook a 
task which was somewhat of the encyclopedic type. 
Some time during the reign of Hakon IV, perhaps while 
Vincent was composing his great Speculum Majus, a 
learned Norseman wrote the Speculum Regale, or King's 
Mirror, a work which a competent critic has character- 
ized as " one of the chief ornaments of Old Norse litera- 
ture." * Unlike the sagas and the romances, which have 
in view chiefly the entertainment of the reader, the 
King's Mirror is didactic throughout; in a few chapters 
only does the author depart from his serious purpose, 
and all but two of these are of distinct value. The pur- 

pffift of the work jfi +n prnvj/4*v o rwtmri VJTirl 

edge whickwilLLe of use to young men who are looking 
for ward Jam, carper Jn the higher pjofegsions. 

As outlined in the introductory chapter, the work was 
to deal with the four great orders of men in the Nor- 
wegian kingdom: the merchants and their interests; the 
king and his retainers; the church and the clergy; and 
the peasantry or husbandmen. In the form in which the 
King's Mirror has come down to modern times, how- 
ever, the first two divisions only are included; not the 
least fragment of any separate discussion of the clerical 

* B. Keyset in the introduction to the Christiania edition (p. xi). 


profession or of the agricultural classes has been found. 
It is, therefore, generally believed that the work was not 
completed beyond the point where the extant manu- 
scripts close. Why the book was left unfinished cannot 
be known; but it is a plausible conjecture that illness or 
perhaps death prevented the author, who was appar- 
ently an aged man, from completing the task that he 
had set before him. It is also possiblejthat the ideas ex- 
pressed in the closing chapters of the work, especially in 
the last chapter, which deals with the subject of clerical 
subordination to the secular powers, weze so repugnant 
to the ecclesiastical thought of the time that the au- 
thorities of the church discouraged or perhaps found 
means to prevent the continuation of the work into the 
third division, where the author had planned to deal 
with the church and the clergy. 

In form the Speculum is a dialog between a wise and 
learned father and his son, in which the larger part of 
the discussion naturally falls to the former. The son 
asks questions and suggests problems, which the father 
promptly answers or solves. In the choice of form there 
is nothing original: the dialog was frequently used by 
didactic writers in the middle ages, and it was the 
natural form to adopt. The title, Speculum Regale, is 
also of a kind that was common in those days.* Specula 
of many sorts were being produced : Speculum Ecclesiae, 
Speculum Stultorum, Speculum Naturale, and Speculum 
Perfectionis are some of the titles used for writings of a 

* It is believed that the title came into use in Europe in imitation of 
Hindu writers who wrote " Mirrors of Princes." Nansen, In Northern Mists, 
II, 242. 


didactic type. The German Sachsenspiegel is an instance 
of the title employed for a work in a vulgar idiom. There 
was also a Speculum Regum, or Mirror of Kings, and a 
century later an English ecclesiastic wrote a Speculum 
Regis, but the writer knows of no other work called the 
Speculum Regale. 

It is an interesting question whether the King's Mir- 
ror was inspired by any earlier work written along simi- 
lar lines. Originality was a rare virtue in the middle ages, 
and the good churchmen who wrote books in those days 
cannot have regarded plagiarism as a mortal sin. The 
great writers were freely copied by the lesser men, 
thoughts, titles, statements, and even the wording being 
often taken outright. It is, therefore, difficult to deter- 
mine the sources of statements found in the later works, 
as they may have been drawn from any one of a whole 
series of writings on the subject under discussion. The 
writer has not been able to make an exhaustive examina- 
tion of all the didactic and devotional literature of the 
centuries preceding the thirteenth, but the search that 
has been made has not proved fruitful. There is every 
reason to believe that the author of the King's Mirror 
was an independent thinker and writer. He was doubtless 
acquainted with a large number of books and had drawn 
information from a great variety of sources; but when 
the writing was actually done he had apparently a few 
volumes only at his disposal. In the region where the 
work seems to have been composed, on the northern 
edge of European civilization, there was neither cathe- 
dral nor monastery nor any other important ecclesias- 
tical foundation where a collection of books might be 


found.* It is likely, therefore, that the author had 
access to such books only as were in his own posses- 
sion. But he came to his task with a well-stocked mind, 
with a vast fund of information gathered by travel and 
from the experiences of an active life; and thus he drew 
largely from materials that had become the permanent 
possession of his memory. This fact, if it be a fact, will 
also help to explain why so many inaccuracies have crept 
into his quoted passages ; in but very few instances does 
he give the correct wording of a citation. 

There can be no doubt that the author had a copy of 
the Vulgate before him; at least one Biblical passage is 
correctly given, and it is quoted in its Latin form.f It 
has also been discovered that he had access to an Old 
Norse paraphrase of a part of the Old Testament, the 
books of Samuel and of the Kings, t It is likely that he 
was also acquainted with some of the works of Saint 
Augustine, and perhaps with the writings of certain 
other medieval authorities. Among these it seems safe 
to include the Disciplina Clericalis, a collection of tales 
and ethical observations by Petrus Alf onsus, a converted 
Jew who wrote in the first half of the twelfth century. 
The Disciplina is a somewhat fantastic production 
wholly unlike the sober pages of the Speculum Regale; 
nevertheless, the two works appear to show certain 

* There must have been important collections of manuscripts at Nidaros 
(Trondhjern), where there was a cathedral and several monastic institu- 
tions. The King's Mirror was probably composed in Namdalen, about one 
hundred miles northeast of Nidaros. See below, pp. 50-60. 
f See below, p. 237. 

J Storm, " Om Tidsforholdet mellem Kongespeilet og Stjorn saint Barlaams 
Saga " : Arkivfar nordisk Filologi, III, 83-88. 


points of resemblance which can hardly have been acci- 
dental. The Disciplina is a dialog and the part of the 
son is much the same as in the King's Mirror. In both 
works the young man expresses a desire to become ac- 
quainted with the customs of the royal court, inasmuch 
as he may some day decide to apply for admission to 
the king's household service.* The description of courtly 
manners and customs in the earlier dialog, though 
much briefer than the corresponding discussion in the 
Norwegian treatise, has some resemblance to the latter 
which suggests a possible relationship between the two 

The Norwegian author may also have used some of 
the many commentaries on the books of Holy Writ, in 
the production of which the medieval cloisters were so 
prolific. Of the influence of Petrus Comestor's Historia 
Scholastica the writer has found no distinct trace in the 
King's Mirror; but one can be quite sure that he knew 
and had used the Elucidarium of Honorius of Autun. 
The Elucidarium is a manual of medieval theology 
which was widely read in the later middle ages and was 
translated into Old Norse, probably before the King's 
Mirror was written.f But our Norwegian author was 
not a slavish follower of earlier authorities: in his use 
and treatment of materials drawn from the Scriptures 
he shows remarkable independence. Remarkable at 
least is his ability to make Biblical narratives serve to 

* See Disciplina Clericalis, fabula xxiv: Migne, Patrologia Latina, CLVII, 

t A fragment of the Elucidarium, comprising, however, the greater part of 
the work, is published in Annalerfor nordisk Oldkyndighed, 1852 and 1853; in 
the former volume a Danish translation is given; the latter contains the Ice- 
landic text. 


illustrate his/owj theories of Norwegian kingship. He 
was acquainted with some of the legends that circulated 
through the church and made effective use of them. 
He must also have known a work on the marvels of 
Ireland * and the letter of Prester John to the Byzan- 
tine emperor, f in which that mythical priest-king re- 
counts the wonders of India. But the chief source of 
his work is a long life full of action, conflict, thought, 
and experience. 

The importRTirp of thp King's Mirror lies in the in- 
sight that, it givps into the ...state of culture and civiliqa- 
jJ2!L_flf ft 1 ** N^rtk in thft late** midf^ flg fts - The interest 

follows seven different lines i^^^sjcaTsc^n^) espe- 
cially such matters as are of importance to navigators; 
geography/ particularly the geography of the Arctic 
lands and waters; the organization of the king's house- 
hold and the privileges and duties of the king's hench- 
men; military engines, weapons, and armour used in 
offensive and defensive warfare; ethical ideas, especially 
rules of conduct for courtiers and merchants; the royal 
office, the duties of the king and the divine origin of 
kingship; and the place of the church in the Norwegian 

In one of his earlier chapters the author enumerates 
the chief subjects of a scientific character that ought 
to be studied by every one who wishes to Won a suc- 
cessful merchant. These are the great luminaries of the 
sky, the motions and the paths of the heavenly bodies, 
the divisions of time and the changes that bring the 
seasons, the cardinal points of the compass, and the 

* See below, pp. 22-25. f See below, p. 101 (c. viii). 


tides and currents of the ocean.*J[n discussing these 
matters he is naturally led to a statement as to the shape 
of the earth. All through the middle ages there were 
thinkers who accepted the teachings of the classical 
astronomers who had taught that the earth is round 
like a sphere; but this belief was by no means general. 
Bede for one appears to have been convinced that the 
earth is of a spherical shape, though he explains that, 
because of mountains which rise high above the surface, 
it cannot be perfectly round.f Alexander Neckam, an 
English scientist who wrote two generations before the 
King's Mirror was composed, states in his Praise of 
Divine Wisdom that " the ancients have ventured to 
believe that the earth is round, though mountains rise 
high above its surface." { Neckam J s own ideas on this 
point are quite confused and he remains discreetly non- 

But if the earth is a globe, there is every reason to be- 
lieve in the existence of antipodes; and _if ^ere_are an- 
tipodes, all cannot behold Christ coming in the clouds 
on the final day. To the medieval theologians, at least 
to the larger number of them, this argument disposed 
effectually of the Ptolemaic theory. Job does indeed say 
that God " hangeth the earth upon nothing," and 
this passage might point to a spherical form; but then 
the Psalmist affirms that He " stretched out the earth 
above the waters," || and this statement would indicate 

* C. iv. See also Larson, " Scientific Knowledge in the North in the Thir- 
teenth Century ": Publications of the Society for the Advancement of Scandi- 
navian Study, 1, 139-146. 

t De Natura Rerum, c. xlvi: Migne, Patrologia Latina, XC, 264-265. 
j De Naturis Rerum, 441. Job, xxvi, 7. 1 1 Psalms, cxxxvi, 6. 


that the inhabited part of the earth is an island floating 
upon the waters of the great Ocean, by which it is also 
surrounded. This belief was generally maintained in 
the earlier centuries of the classical world, and it had 
wide acceptance in the middle ages.' There were also 
those who held that beyond and around the outer Ocean 
is a great girdle of fire. It is likely, however, that many 
believed with Isidore of Seville that it is useless to spec- 
ulate on subjects of this sort. ' Whether it [the earth] 
is supported by the density of the air, or whether it is 
spread out upon the waters ... or how the yielding air 
can support such a vast mass as the earth, whether such 
an immense weight can be upheld by the waters without 
being submerged, or how the earth maintains its balance 
. . . these matters it is not permitted any mortal to 
know and they are not for us to discuss." * 

There can be no doubt that the author of tl\e KinQ 9 
Mirror believed in the Ptolemaic theory of a spherical 
n speaking of our planet he uses the term jar- 
J( earth-sphere. In an effort to explain why some 
countries are hotter than others, he suggests an experi- 
ment with an apple. It is not clear how this can shed 
much light on the problem, but the author boldly states 
the point to be illustrated: " From this you may infer 
that the earth-circle is round like a ball." J 

Toward the close of the medieval period there were 
certain thinkers who attempted to reconcile the spheri- 
cal theory with the belief that the inhabited part of the 
earth is an island. These appear to have believed that 

* De Natura Rerum Liber, c. xlv: Migne, Palrologia Latina, LXXXIII, 1015. 
t See c. xix. J See c. vii. 


the earth is a globe partly submerged in a larger sphere 
composed of water.* The visible parts of the earth would 
rise above the surrounding ocean like a huge island, and 
the Biblical passages which had caused so much diffi- 
culty could thus be interpreted in accord with apparent 
facts. It is quite clear that the author of the King's 
Mirror held no such theory. In a poetic description of 
how the eight winds form their covenants of friendship 
at the approach of spring, he tells us that " at midnight 
the north wind goes forth to meet the coursing sun and 
leads him through rocky deserts toward the sparse-built 
shores." f The author, therefore, seems to believe 
that the earth is a sphere, that there are lands on the 
opposite side of the earth, and that these lands are in- 
habited. He also understands that the regions that lie 
beneath the midnight course of the sun in spring and 
summer must be thinly populated, as the sun's path on 
the opposite side of the earth during the season of 
lengthening days is constantly approaching nearer the 

But while the author seems to accept the Ptolemaic 
theory of the universe, he is not able to divest his mind 
entirely of current geographical notions. There can be 
no doubt that he believed in the encircling outer ocean, 
and it is barely possible that he also looked with favor 
on the belief that the whole was encompassed by a girdle 
of fire. On this point, however, we cannot be sure: he 
mentions the belief merely as one that is current, not as 
one accepted by himself. { 

* Ruge, Geschichle des Zeitalters der Enldeckungen, 97. 
t C. v. J C. xix. 


It was commonly held in the middle ages that the 
earth is divided into five zones, only two of which may 
be inhabited. This was a theory advanced by a Greek 
scientist in the fifth century before our era,* and was 
given currency in medieval times chiefly, perhaps, 
through the works of Macrobius.f At first these zones 
were conceived as belts drawn across the heavens; later 
they came to be considered as divisions of the earth's 
surface. It will be noted that our author uses the older 
terminology and speaks of the zones as belts on the 
heaven; { it may be inferred, therefore, that he derived 
his information from one of the earlier Latin treatises 
on the nature of the universe. For two thousand years 
it was believed that human life could not exist in the 
polar and torrid zones. Even as late as the fifteenth 
century European navigators had great fear of travel 
into the torrid zone, where the heat was thought to 
grow more intense as one traveled south, until a point 
might be reached where water in the sea would boil. 
Tfrp p.i]f f hm* of t.hf> King's Mirrnr sppms t.n rfpnbt all this. 
He regards the polar zones as generally uninhabitable; 
still, he is sure that Greenland lies within the arctic 
zone; and yet, Greenland " has beautiful sunshine and 
is said to have a rather pleasant climate." || He sees 
Henrly the phyairn.1 nnture of n. rountry mny 

TTin^h to do V*k Himptir nrm Hit inns Thfi cold of 

Iceland he ascribes in great part to its position near 

* Parmenides of Ela (ca. 480 B.C.). Nansen, In Northern Mists, I, 12. 

t See below, p. 147 (c. xix). Cf. Ibid., 123. 

J C. xix. 

Probably from the writings of Isidore, who speaks of the zones as belts on 

the heavens. Etymologiae, iii, c. xliv; xiii, c. vi; De Natura Rentm, c. x. 

II C.xix. 


Greenland: "for it is to be expected that severe cold 
would come thence, since Greenland is ice-clad beyond 
all other lands." * He conceives the possibility that the 
south temperate zone is inhabited. "And if people live as 
near the cold belt on the southern side as the Green- 
landers do on the northern, I firmly believe that the 
north wind blows as warm to them as the south wind 
to us. For they must look north to see the midday and 
the sun's whole course, just as we, who dwell north of 
the sun, must look to the south." f 

On the questions of time and its divisions the author 
of the King's Mirror seems to have had nearly all the 
information that the age possessed. He divides the 
period of day and night into two " days " (dcegr) of 
twelve hours each. Each hour is again divided into 
smaller hours called ostenta in Latin.} Any division 
below the minute he apparently does not know. The 
length of the year he fixes at 365 days and six hours, 
every fourth year these additional hours make twenty- 
four and we have leap year. The waxing and waning of 
the moon and the tidal changes in the ocean are also 
reckoned with fair accuracy. || 

Medieval scientists found these movements in the 
ocean a great mystery. Some ascribed the tides to the 
influence of the moon; If others believed that they were 
caused by the collision of the waters of two arms of the 
ocean, an eastern arm and a western; still others 

* C. xiii. f C. xxi. J C. vi. 

%lUd. \\Ibid. 

IT The Venerable Bede held that the moon is in some way responsible for the 

tides. De Natura Rerum, c. xxxix: Migne, Patrologia Latina, XC, 258-259; 

see also iW., XC, 422-426 (De Tempore Ratione, c. xxix). 


imagined that somewhere there were " certain cavern- 
like abysses, which now swallow up the water, and now 
spew it forth again."* The author of the Speculum has 
no doubts on the subject: he believes that the tides are 
due to the waxing and waning of the moon.f 

In his discussion of the volcanic fires of Iceland he 
shows that on this subject he was completely under the 
influence of medieval conceptions. He has heard that 
Gregory the Great believed that the volcanic eruptions 
in Sicily have their origins in the infernal regions. Our 
author is inclined to question, however, that there is 
anything supernatural about the eruptions of Mount 
Etna; but he is quite sure that the volcanic fires of Ice- 
land rise from the places of pain. The fires of Sicily are 
living fires, inasmuch as they devour living materials, 
such as wood and earth; those of Iceland, on the other 
hand, consume nothing living but only dead matter 
like rock. And he therefore concludes that these fires 
must have their origin in the realms of death. { 

The author has a suspicion that earthquakes may be 
due to volcanic action, but he offers another explana- 
tion, though he does not give it as his own belief. Down 
in the bowels of the earth there is probably a large num- 
ber of caverns and empty passages. " At times it may 
happen that these passages and cavities will be so com- 
pletely packed with air either by the winds or by the 
power of the roaring breakers, that the pressure of the 
blast cannot be confined, and this may be the origin of 
those great earthquakes that occur in that country." 

* Alexander Neckam, De Naturis Rerum, 138. f C. vi. 

J C. xiii. Ibid. 


In this theory there is nothing new or original : the be- 
lief that the earth is of a spongy constitution and that 
earthquakes are caused by air currents is a very old one, 
which can be followed back through the writings of 
Alexander Neckam,* the Venerable Bede,f and others, 
at least as far as to Isidore.! The elder Pliny, who wrote 
his Natural History in the first century of the Christian 
era, seems to have held similar views: " I believe there 
can be no doubt that the winds are the cause -of earth- 

The chapters that deal with the northern lights are 
interesting because they seem to imply that these lights 
were not visible in those parts of Norway where the 
King's Mirror was written. The editors of the Christi- 
ania edition of this work call attention to the fact that 
there have been periods when these phenomena were 
less prominent, and suggest that there may have been 
such a period in the thirteenth century. || The author 
discusses these lights as one of the wonders of Green- 
land, and the natural inference is that they were not 
known in Norway. But it is also true that he speaks of 
whales as if they were limited to the seas about Iceland 
and Greenland, which is manifestly incorrect. It is 
likely that the author merely wishes to emphasize the 
fact that the northern lights appear with greater fre- 
quency and in greater brilliance in Greenland than any- 

* De Naturis Rerum, 158. 

t De Natura Rerum, c. xlix: Migne, Patrologia Latina, XC, 275-276. 

t De Natura Rerum, c. xlvi: Migne, Patrologia Latina, LXXXIII, 1015. See 

also The Christian Topography of Cosmas (written about 547), 17-18; Cosmas 

scoffs at the theory. 

Naturalis Historiae, I, 201 (ii, c. Ixxix). 

|| P. ix, note. 


where in Norway. He gives three theories to account 
for these phenomena: some ascribe them to a girdle of 
fire which encircles the earth beyond the outer ocean; 
others hold that the lights are merely rays of the sun 
which find their way past the edges of the earth while 
the sun is coursing underneath; but his own belief is 
that frost and cold have attained to such a power in the 
Arctic that they are able to put forth light.* In his 
opinion cold is a positive force as much as heat or any 
other form of energy. To the men of the author's time 
there was nothing strange in this belief: it seems to 
have been held by many even before the thirteenth 
century that ice could under certain conditions produce 
heat and even burn.f 

Among the author's scientific notions very little that 
is really original can be found. It is Riant's belief that 
he drew to some extent from Oriental sources, the lore 
of the East having come into the North as the spoil of 
crusaders or as the acquisitions of Norwegian pilgrims .{ 
It may be doubted, however, whether the Saracenic 
contribution is a real one: almost everything that the 
author of the Speculum Regale presents as his belief can 
be found in the Latin scientific manuals of the middle 
ages. He alludes to the writings of Isidore of Seville, and 
* C. xix. 

t Thus Solinus (pp. xxxiv, xxxvii, 236) says " the sea-ice on this island ig- 
nites itself on collision, and when it is ignited it burns like wood." See Nan- 
sen, In Northern Mists, I, 193. Adam von Bremen (Gesta Hammaburgensis 
Ecclesiae Pontificum, iv, 34) writes: " they report this remarkable thing 
about it that this ice appears so black and dry that, on account of its age, it 
burns when it is kindled." Ibid. The same belief appears in a German poem 
Meregarto: " Thereby the ice there becomes so hard as crystal, that they 
make a fire above it till the crystal glows." Ibid., I, 181. 
t Riant, Expeditions el Pelerinages des Scandinavcs en Terre Sainte, 440-441. 


there can be little doubt that he was acquainted with 
the ideas of the great Spaniard, though he does not ac- 
cept them all. His ideas as to the shape of the earth and 
the probable causes of earthquakes may have been de- 
rived from the writings of the Venerable Bede, or from 
one of his numerous followers. The divisions of time are 
discussed in many of the scientific treatises of the middle 
ages, but the division of the hour into sixtieths called 
ostenta is probably not found in any manual written be- 
fore the ninth century; so far as the writer has been able 
to determine, ostenta, meaning minutes, first appears in 
the works -of Rabanus Maurus.* 

The discussion of these scientific notions has its chief 
value in showing to what extent the Norwegians of the 
thirteenth century were acquainted with the best theo- 
ries of the age as to the great facts of the universe. The 
author's own contribution to the scientific learning of 
his time lies almost exclusively in the field of geography. 
" Beyond comparison the most important geographical 
writer of the medieval North," says Dr. Nansen, " and 
at the same time one of the first in the whole of medieval 
Europe, was the unknown author who wrote the King's 
Mirror. ... If one turns from contemporary or earlier 
European geographical literature, with all its supersti- 
tion and obscurity, to this masterly work, the difference 
is very striking." f This is doubtless due to the fact that 
pur author wfl^ riot. . Roistered mon^ who was content 
to copy the ideas and expressions of his predecessors with 
such changes as would satisfy a theological mind, but a 

* Rabanus Maurus died in 856. 

t Nansen, In Northern Mists, II, 242. 


man who had been active in the secular world and was 
anxious to get at real facts. 

Among the chapters devoted to scientific lore the 
author has introduced several which are ostensibly in- 
tended to serve the purpose of entertainment; the author 
seems to fear that the interest of his readers is likely 
to flag, if the dry recital of physical facts is continued 
unbroken. It is in these chapters, which profess to deal 
with the marvels of Norway, Ireland, Iceland, Green- 
land, and the Arctic seas, that he introduces his geo- 
graphical data. In the description of Greenland are 
included such important and practical subjects as the 
general character of the land, the great ice fields, the 
products of the country, wild animals, and a few facts 
from the economic life of the people. In the chapters on 
Iceland the author limits himself to certain physical 
features, such as glaciers, geysers, mineral springs, vol- 
canoes, and earthquakes. He also gives a " description 
of the animal world of the northern seas to which there 
is no parallel in the earlier literature of the world." * He 
enumerates twenty-one different species of whales f and 
describes several of them with some fulness. He men- 
tions and describes six varieties of seals J and also gives 
a description of the walrus. The marvelous element is 
represented by detailed accounts of the " sea-hedges " 
(probably sea quakes) on the coasts of Greenland, the 

* Nansen, In Northern Mists, II, 243. 

t Ibid. " If we make allowance for three of them being probably sharks and 
for two being perhaps alternative names for the same whale, the total corre- 
sponds to the number of species that are known in northern waters." 
% Ibid. This " corresponds to the number of species living on the coasts of 
Norway and Greenland." 


merman, the mermaid, and the kraken.* But on the 
whole these chapters give evidence of careful, discrimi- 
nating observation and a desire to give accurate knowl- 

For all but the two chapters on Ireland the sources of 
the author's geographical information are evidently the 
tales of travelers and his own personal experiences; of 
literary sources there is no trace. The account of the 
marvels of Ireland, however, gives rise to certain prob- 
lems. It may be that the Norwegian geographer based 
these chapters on literary sources that are still extant, 
or he may have had access to writings which have since 
disappeared. It is also possible that some of the infor- 
mation was contributed by travelers who sailed the 
western seas and had sojourned on the " western isles ; " 
for it must be remembered that Norway still had colo- 
nies as far south as the Isle of Man, and that Norsemen 
were still living in Ireland, though under English rule. 
When Hakon IV made his expedition into these regions 
in 1263, some of these Norwegian colonists in Ireland 
sought his aid in the hope that English rule might be 

It has long been known that many of the tales of 
Irish wonders and miracles that are recounted in the 
Speculum Regale are also told in the Topographia Hiber- 
nica by Giraldus Cambrensis. The famous Welshman 
wrote his work several decades before the King's Mirror 
was composed; and it is not impossible that the author 
of the latter had access to the " Irish Topography." 
Moreover, the Speculum Regale and the Topographia 

* Cc. xii, xvi. f Hdkonar Saga, c. 322. 


Hibernica have certain common features which corre- 
spond so closely that literary kinship seems quite prob- 
able. The resemblances, however, are not so much in the 
details as in the plan and the viewpoint. In the second 
book of his " Topography," Giraldus recounts " first 
those things that nature has planted in the land itself; " 
and next " those things that have been miraculously 
performed through the merits of the saints." * The au- 
thor of the King's Mirror has adopted a similar group- 
ing. After having discussed some of the wonders of the 
island he continues: " There still remain certain things 
that may be thought marvelous; these, however, are 
not native to the land but have originated in the miracu- 
lous powers of holy men."f This correspondence in the 
general plan is too remarkable to be wholly accidental; 
at least it should lead us to look for other resemblances 

In his general description of Ireland the author of 
the Norwegian work calls attention to the excellence of 
the land and its temperate climate: " for all through the 
winter the cattle find their feed in the open." J Giraldus 
informs us that grass grows in winter as well as in sum- 
mer, and he adds: " therefore they are accustomed nei- 
ther to cut hay for fodder nor to provide stables for the 
cattle." Both writers emphasize the fact that grapes 
do not grow on the island. In both writings attention is 
called to the sacred character of the Irish soil, which 
makes it impossible for reptiles and venomous animals 
to live on the land, though Giraldus has his doubts as 
to the supernatural phase of the matter. Both writers 

* Topographia Hibernica, ii, introd.: Opera, V, 74. f C. xi. 

t c. x. Topographia Hibernica, i, c. xxxiii: Opera, V, 67. 


add that if sand or dust is brought from Ireland to 
another country and scattered about a reptile, it will 
perish.* Both characterize the Irish people as savage 
and murderous, but they also call attention to their 
kind treatment of holy men, of whom the island has 
always had many.f In fact, every statement in the 
King's Mirror as to the nature of the land and the 
character of the inhabitants can be duplicated in Giral- 
dus' description of Ireland, except, perhaps, the single 
observation that the Irish people, because of the mild- 
ness of the climate, often wear no clothes. 

But even if Giraldus' work is to be regarded as one of 
the sources which the Norwegian author may have used 
in writing his chapters on the Irish mirabilia, it cannot 
have been the only or even the principal source. The 
account of these marvels in the King's Mirror does not 
wholly agree with that of the Welshman's work. In some 
instances the wonders are told with details that are 
wanting in the earlier narrative. Frequently, too, the 
Norwegian version is more explicit as to localities and 
gives proper names where Giraldus has none. It also 
records marvels and miracles which are not found in the 
Topographia Hibernica. 

In an edition of the Irish Nennius the editor has 
added as an appendix a brief account of the " Wonders 
of Ireland," many of the tales of which have interesting 
parallels in the King's Mirror. There is also a medieval 
poem on the same theme t which contains allusions to 
much that the Norwegian author has recorded with 

* Giraldus, Opera, V, 62-64; King's Mirror, c. x. 

t Topographia Hibernica, Hi, c. 28; King's Mirror, c. x. 

t See Wright-Halliwell, Reliquiae Antiquae, II, 103-107. 


greater fulness. Neither of these works, however, can 
have been the source from which the chapters on Ireland 
in the Speculum Regale have been derived. 

The learned editors of the Christiania edition of the 
King's Mirror reached the conclusion that the author 
did not draw from any literary source but derived his 
information from current tales and other oral accounts.* 
This is also the opinion of Dr. Kuno Meyer, the emi- 
nent student of Celtic philology.f Dr. Meyer bases his 
belief on the form of the Irish proper names. As written 
in the Speculum Regale they can not have been copied, 
as the spelling is not normally Irish; he believes, there- 
fore, that they show an effort on the author's part to 
reproduce phonetically these names as he heard them 
spoken. But this theory ignores the fact that in writing 
them the author employs combinations of consonants 
which are unusual to say the least. Combinations of ch 
and gh are used in writing nearly all the Irish proper 
names that occur in the King's Mirror and the ^-com- 
bination is found nowhere else in the work. J It was 
probably coming into the language in the century to 
which the work is credited, but the author uses it only 
as indicated above. It seems likely, therefore, that he 
had access to a written source, though it is also likely 
that he did not have this account before him when the 
writing was actually done. As has already been stated, 

* P. x. f Erin, IV., 14-16. 

J In a letter to the writer Professor Meyer expresses the belief that the use 
of gh in the Irish proper names is an invention by the author. The combina- 
tion of c and h is also used in certain other proper names, the system varying 
in the different manuscripts. For a discussion of the writing of proper names 
in the chief manuscript, see the American Facsimile Edition of the Konungs 
Skuggsjd (edited by G. T. Flom), xxxvii-xxxix. 


the author seems to have written largely from memory, 
and his memory is not always accurate. 

Having discussed the subjects which he considers of 
chief importance for the education of a merchant, the 
learned father proceeds to describe jj}- king's 

hold anH jt.s nrgfl.nigfl.t.i'on, the 

at n.mirt fc1 and fa* business thai, is 

before a king. For the part which deals with the royal 
court, it is probable that no literary sources were used. 
The author evidently wrote from long experience in the 

king's rvitirmg- frg is rmt rh'grngging an irl^ft] organisation 

hr>"**ho lr| as it was in J^erg pTi 

n his own ^ fl y If he drew from any written de- 
scription of courtly manners, it may have been from 
some book like Petrus Alfonsus' Disciplina Clericalis, 
which has already been mentioned * and which seems 
to have had a wide circulation throughout western 
Europe in the later middle ages. 

The chapters that are devoted to the discussion 0f the 
duties and activities ^4-4h^ king*f guaHsm^n^ to the 
manners and fiuptoT^ whirh sh^iiM -nil ir t"h kf^g' 
jgaxiJb, and to the ethical ideas on which these were 
largely based are of great interest to the student of me- 
^ dieval culture. They reveal a, progress in the direction 
^\ j)f rf>-finp^| ]f"ff> find .po^ gn ^ > . i rl Ty>ATinpr.^ which one should 
scarcely expect to find in the Northern lands. JThe de= 
velopment of courtes}^ and refined manners may have 
been accelerated by the new literature which was com- 
ing into Scandinavia from France and Germany, a 
literature that dealt so largely with the doings of 

* See above, pp. 9-10. 


Jgniffhts and kings:* but it was probably not so much a 
matter of bookish instruction as of direct imitation. The 
Northmen, though they lived far from the great centers 
of culture, were always in close touch with the rest of 
the world. In the earlier centuries the viking sailed his 
dreaded craft wherever there was wealth and plunder 
and civilized life. After him and often as his companion 
came the merchant who brought away new ideas along 
with other desirable wares. After a time Christianity 
was introduced from the southlands, and the pilgrim 
and the crusader took the place of the heathen pirate. 
And all these classes helped to reshape the life of cour- 
tesy in the Northern countries. 

It is difficult to overestimate the influence of the 
crusader as a pioneer of Christian culture in Scandina- 
via, but it seems possible that the pilgrim was even more 
important in this respect. It was no doubt largely 
through his journeys that German influences began to 
be felt in the Scandinavian lands, though it is possible 
that the wide activities of the Hanseatic merchants 
should also be credited with some importance for the 
spread of Teutonic culture. It is told in the King's 
Mirror that a new mode of dressing the hair and the 
beard had been introduced from Germany since the 
author had retired from the royal court. f It is signifi- 
cant that the routes usually followed by Norwegian 
pilgrims who sought the Eternal City and the holy 
places in the Orient ran through German lands. As a 
rule the pilgrims traveled through Jutland, Holstein, 
and the Old Saxon territories and reached the Rhine at 

* See above, pp. 2-3. f C. rxx. 


Mainz. It was also possible to take a more easterly 
route, and sometimes the travelers would go by sea to 
the Low Countries and thence southward past Utrecht 
and Cologne; but all these three routes converged at 
Mainz, whence the journey led up the Rhine and across 
the Alps. It will be noted that a long stretch of the jour- 
ney from Norway to Rome would lead through the 
German kingdom. Concerning the people of the Old 
Saxon or German lands an Icelandic scribe makes the 
following significant remark: " In that country the 
people are more polished and courteous than in most 
places and the Northmen imitate their customs quite 
generally." * 

The cultural influences which followed in the wake of 
the returning crusaders were no doubt largely of Frank- 
ish origin. As a rule the crusading expeditions followed 
the sea route along the coasts of France and the Spanish 
peninsula; thus the Northern warriors came in contact 
with French ideas and customs in the Frankish home- 
land as well as in the Christian armies, which were 
largely made up of enthusiastic and venturesome 
knights from Frankland. The author of the King's 
Mirror urges his son to learn Latin and French, " for 
these idioms are most widely used." f 

One of the reasons why the~son wishes to master the 
mercantile profession! is that he desires to travel and 

* Nikolas Ssemundarson, abbot of Thingeyrar, who made a journey to the 
Holy Land about 1151, wrote an itinerary for the use of pilgrims from which 
the above quotation is taken. The itinerary is summarized in Riant, Exp6- 
ditions et Pelerinages des Scandinaves en Terre Sainte, 80-87. 
t C. iii. It is likely that English culture found its way into the North along 
with the French. When King Sigurd sailed to the Orient in 1107, he spent 
the winter of 1107-1108 at the English court. 


learn the customs of other lands.* In the thirteenth 
century the Norwegian trade still seems to have been 
largely with England and the other parts of the British 
Isles. It is also important to remember that the Nor- 
wegian church was a daughter of the church of England, 
and that occasionally English churchmen were elevated 
to high office in the Norwegian establishment. It is 
likely that Master William, who was Hakon IV's chap- 
lain, was an Englishman; at least he bore an English 

Information as to foreign civilization and the rules of 
courteous behavior could also pass from land to land 
and from court to court with the diplomatic missions 
of the time. The wise father states that envoys who I 
come and go are careful to observe the manners that \ 
obtain at the courts to which they are sent.f Frequent \ 
embassies must have passed between the capitals of 
England and Norway in the thirteenth century. It is 
recorded that both King John and his son Henry III re- 
ceived envoys from the king of Norway, and that they 
brought very acceptable gifts, such as hawks and elks, 
especially the former: in twelve different years Hakon 
IV sent hawks to the English king.|| 

Embassies also came quite frequently from the im- 
perial court in Germany. It was during the reign of 
Hakon IV that the Hohenstaufens were waging their 
last fight with the papacy, and both sides in the conflict 
seemed anxious to secure the friendship of the great 

* C. iii. t Bdkonar Saga, c. 228. J C. xxix. 

Rotuli Litterarum Clausarum, I, 382, 506, 509. 

1 1 Olafsen, " Falkefangsten i Norge " : Histarisk Tidsskrift, Femte Rsekke, III, 



Norwegian king. The Saga of Hakon relates that early 
in the king's reign " missions began between the em- 
peror and King Hakon." * In 1241, " when King Hakon 
came to the King's Crag, that man came to him whose 
name was Matthew, sent from the emperor Frederick 
with many noble gifts. Along with him came from 
abroad five Bluemen (negroes)." f Just how acceptable 
such a gift would be in medieval Norway the chronicler 
does not state. There can be no doubt, however, that 
Hakon returned the courtesy. The saga mentions several 
men who were sent on flipl nm aj-.j c erra.n fa to the imperial 
court. One of these(eniissarl^ had to go as far as Sicily, 
" and the emperor received him well."! 


The King's Mirror states that 

kings fin^ i* ripppggpry f,o 

Q pnmmr>Ti 

thf> mpm^pi of thp variou 

nrrrfully thfr tniitQintii mH mnnnrn of th^ other groups^ 
These meetings were usually held at some point near 
the mouth of the Gota River, where the boundaries of 
the three kingdoms touched a common point. In 1254 
such a meeting was held at which Hakon of Norway, 
Christopher of Denmark, and the great Earl Birger 
of Sweden were in attendance with their respective 
retinues. 1 1 

j^The kings of the North were not limited, however, in 
their diplomatic intercourse to the neighboring monarch- 
ies; their ambassadors went out to the remotest parts 

* Hdkonar Saga, c. 191. f Und-, c. 243. J Ibid., c. 191. 

C. xxix. 1 1 Hdkonar Saga, c. 281. 


of Europe and even to Af ricaJ Valdemar the Victorious, 
in his day one of the greatest rulers in Christendom, 
married as his first wife Dragomir, a Bohemian princess 
who brought the Dagmar name into Denmark, and 
took as his second consort Berengaria of Portugal, 
Queen Bengjerd, whose lofty pride is enshrined in the 
Danish ballads of the age. Hakon IV married the daugh- 
ter of his restless rival, Duke Skule; but his daughter 
Christina was sought in marriage by a prince in far- 
away Spain. The luckless princess was sent to Castile 
and was married at Valladolid to a son of Alfonso the 
Wise.* Louis IX of France was anxious to enlist the 
support of the Norwegian king for his crusading ven- 
tures and sent the noted English historian Matthew 
Paris to present the matter to King Hakon. f The mis- 
sion, however, was without results. Norwegian diplo- 
macy was concerned even with the courts of the infidel : 
in 1262 an embassy was sent to the Mohammedan sultan 
of Tunis " with many falcons and those other things 
which were there hard to get. And when they got out 
the Soldan received them well, and they stayed there 
long that winter."! 

An important event of the diplomatic type was the 
coming of Cardinal William of Sabina as papal legate 
to crown King Hakon. The coronation ceremony was 
performed in Bergen, July 29, 1247. At the coronation 
banquet the cardinal made a speech in which, as the 
Saga of Hakon reports his remarks, he called particular 
attention to the polished manners of the Northmen. 

* Hdkonar Saga, c. 294. f Matthew Paris, Chronica Majora, IV, 651-652. 
t Hdkonar Saga, c. 313. 


" It was told me that I would here see few men; but 
even though I saw some, they would be liker to beasts 
in their behaviour than to men; but now I see here a 
countless multitude of the folk of this land, and, as it 
seems to me, with good behaviour." * Tf the King's 
g"" * rrpnt statement of what was ronntM 
nnH prnpff finnf 1 "** nt t}lp 

lY, the ^iHrr 1 ' i""" ** 1<c TinTin +nn ntiTinTlg - 

As a part of his discussion of the duties and activities 
of the king's henchmen, the author describes the mili- 
tary methods of the age, arms and armour, military 
engines and devices used in offensive and defensive 
warfare, and other necessary equipment.! He also dis- 
cusses the ethics of the military profession to some ex- 
tent. This part of the work has been made the subject of 
a detailed study by Captain Otto Blom of the Danish 
artillery, who has tried to fix a date for the composition 
of the King's Mirror on the basis of these materials.! It 
is not likely, however, that the work describes the mili- 
tary art of the North; such an elaborate system of equip- 
ment and such a variety of military engines and devices 
the Norwegians probably never knew at any time in 
the middle ages. It is the military art of Europe which 
the author describes, especially the war machinery of the 
crusades. One should not be surprised to find that he 
had knowledge of the devices which were employed by 
the Christian hosts in their warfare against the infidel 
in the Orient. The crusades attracted the Norwegian 
warriors and they took a part in them almost from the 

* Hdkonar Saga, c. 255. (Dasent's translation.) 

t Cc. xxxviii-xxxix. J See below, pp. 62-63. 


beginning. The fifth crusade began in 1217, the year of 
Hakon IV's accession to the kingship. Several Nor- 
wegian chiefs with their followers joined this movement, 
some marching by land through Germany and Hungary, 
while others took the sea route. One is tempted to be- 
lieve that the author was himself a crusader, but it is 
also possible that he got his information as to the mili- 
tary art of the south and east from warriors who re- 
turned from those lands. 

From the subject of proper behavior and good breed- 
ing the author passes to a discussion of_pvil conduct and 
its pflfc^t on thtt wHfnre ^ *k*> kingdom, Many causes, 
he tells us, may combine to bring calamities upon a 
land, and if the evils continue any length of time, the 
realm will be ruined.* There may come dearth upon the 
fields and the fishing grounds near the shores; plagues 
may carry away cattle, and the huntsman may find a 
scarcity of game; but worst of all is the dearth which 
sometimes comes upon the intellects and the moral 
nature of men. As a prolific source of calamities of the 
last sort, the author mentions the jnst-itllt- 1 ' 1 "f joint 

kingship, *V>^ wila nf whinh h^ rlisniigggg a.f cnm^ Ipngth 

His chapter on this subject is an epitome of Norwegian 
history in the twelfth century when joint kingship was 
the rule. 

to the laws of medieval Norway before- 

allo.dial possession and was inherited by his sons, at his 
death. All his sons were legaLheir&y-tko&e.ol illegitimate 
birth as well as .those j^JxajKereuho 



there was mojJia,n one h J ejr 3 _theJkingsHp was helc 
all the *i"'nrmt rprpivinff th^ . 

permissioaJaunaintain e^ *"'* wn household Usually 
a part of the realm was assigned to each; but it was the 
not th*> imgHnm itself, which 

seen that^nch a system would 

rights were at-Jbest of a, doubtful 
the Norwegian throne. It is an interesting fact that two 
of these, the strenuous Sverre and the wise Hakon IV, 
must be counted among the strongest, ablest, and most 
attractive kings in the history of Norway. 

Though there had been instances of joint rule before 
the twelfth century, the history of that unfortunate 
form of administration properly begins with the death 
of Magnus Bareleg on an Irish battlefield in 1103. 
Three illegitimate sons, the oldest being only fourteen 
years of age, succeeded to the royal title. One of these 
was the famous Sigurd Jerusalemfarer, who took part 
in the later stages of the first crusade. About twenty 
years after King Magnus' death, a young Irishman, 
Harold Gilchrist by name, appeared at the Norwegian 
court and claimed royal rights as a son of the fallen 
king. King Sigurd forced him to prove his birthright by 
an appeal to the ordeal, but the Irishman walked un- 
hurt over the hot plowshares. Harold became king in 
1130 as joint ruler with Sigurd's son Magnus, later 
called " the Blind." * Three of his sons succeeded to the 

* The strife that followed the accession of Harold Gille and Magnus the 
Blind is the subject of Bjornson's great historical drama, Sigurd Slembe 
(English translation by William Morton Payne). 


kingship in 1136. During the next century several pre- 
tenders appeared and civil war became almost the nor- 
mal state of the country. Between 1103 and 1217 fifteen 
princes were honored with the royal title; eleven of 
these were minors. The period closed with the defeat 
and death of King Hakon's father-in-law, the pretender 
Skule, in 1240. 

It was thp history of these hundred years and mnrp nf 
loirit kin fif S rp *"* of pretenders, of minorities Q^>H r>f fivil 
hiVh thf* author of thf* King'ft Mirror hod in rnjp.fl 
' gloomy r>Viflpf Pr nn t^e calamities 

Perhaps ne was thinking more es- 
pecially of the unnatural conflict between King Hakon 
and Duke Skule,* which was fought out in 1240, and the 
memory of which was still fresh at the time when the 
King's Mirror was being written. 

Of the king and his duties as ruler and judge the 
Speculum Regale has much to say; but as these matters 
offer no problems that call for discussion, it will not be 
necessary to examine them in detail. Wholly different 
is the case of the Ring's rpfafjpn t.p thfi r,hurrh 3 of the 
position, of the church in the state, of the divine origin 
.ol .Jkingfthifi, of the fuhe^oLthe rpyaj authority jQr 
these questions the author's opinions and arguments are 
of great importance :(in the history of the theory of king- 
ship by the grace of God and divine right and of abso- 
lute monarchy, the Speculum Regale is an important 

In the discussion of the origin and powers of the royal 
office, the King's Mirror again shows unmistakably the 

* See below, p. 48. 


influence of events in the preceding century of Nor- 
wegian history. So long as thfijehurch-of Norway was 
umfcr th*> gnpftrincinn ^LJarpigT] firchbishops. first the 
metropolitan of distant Hamburg and later the arch- 
bishop of the Danish (now Swedish) see of Lund, there. 
of anv serious-dash betwea-*he. 

rival powers of f^ 11T> rh and ctqt ^ But when, in 1152, an 
<Jrchiepiscoaj>see was established at Nidaros (Trond- 
hjem) trouble broke out at once. Thejvave of enthusi- 
^sjfl for a powerful and indepgH p P f phnrffr, which Jlgl 
Developed iir>i vijofor in the Havs oLfiregorv VII. was 
gftfl) rising high. Able men were appointed to the new 
metropolitan office and the Norwegian church very soon 
put forth the usual demands of the time: separate eccle- 
siastical courts and immunity from anything that looked 
like taxation or forced contribution to the state. At first 
these claims had no reality in fact, as the kings would 
not allow them; but in 1163 * an opportunity came for 
the church to make its demands effective. In that year 
a victorious faction asked for the coronation of a new 
king whose claims to the throne came through Jbis 
mother only* The pretender was a mere child and tjie 
actual power was in the hands of his capable and am- 
bitious father^ Erling Skakke. The imperious archbishog 
Eystein agreed to consecrate the boy king if he would 
consent to become the vassal of Saint Olaf, or, in other 
words, of the archbishop of Nidaros. Erling acquiesced 
and young Magnus was duly crowned. It was further 
. Stipulated that j 

* The date usually given is 1164; but Ebbe Hertzberg argues quite conclu- 
sively for the earlier year. " Den f orste norske Kongekroning " : Historisk 
Tidsskrift, Fjerde Rtekke, III, 30-37. 


final decision should- rest, with the bishopsJ 4 The_jitae 

Wfl.s formally ma HP gnhjWf; f |O ftfo rlmrrli It must be 
rioted, however, that it. wa.s not. tjhf* hparl r)f Cat.hnHn 

marl** t.Tip|gfi glfliTingj Vnf the chief 

prft1a.t.p O f thp naiinrml Norwegian churchy The theory 
was doubtless this, that if the pope is superioy tp 

^Tppprnr thp arpTiVnghnp j fi fillpfrJW to the king. 

The new arrangement did not long remain 
lenged. In 1177 the opposition to the ecclesiastical 
faction found a leader in Sverre, called Sigurdsson, an 
adventurer from the Faroe Islands, who pretended to 
be a grandson of Harold Gilchrist, though the proba- 
bilities are that his father was one Unas, a native of the 
Faroes. f Sverre's followers were known as Birchshanks, 
because they had been reduced to such straits that they 
had to bind birch bark around their legs. The faction in 
control of the government was called the Croziermen 
and was composed of the higher clergy with an impor- 
tant following among the aristocracy. Sverre's fight was, 
therefore, not against King Magnus alone but against 
the Guelph party of Norway. For half a century there 
was intermittent civil warfare between the supporters 
of an independent and vigorous kingship on the one side 
and the partisans of clerical control on the other. King 
Sverre's great service to Norway was that he broke the 

* According to the new rules of succession the oldest legitimate son, if quali- N 
fied for the office, should inherit the throne. The oldest might be passed over, i 
however, in favor of a younger legitimate son, or even in favor of an illegiti- 
mate descendant, if the bishops should find such a procedure expedient. 
Gjerset, History of the Norwegian People, I, 364. 

t While it seems probable that Sverre was not of royal blood he was not 
necessarily an impostor; he may have believed his mother's assertions. For 
a discussion of the problem see ibid., 376-377. 


chain of ecclesiastical domination. The conflict was long 
and bitter and the great king died while it was still on; 
but when it ended the cause of the Croziermen was lost. 
The church attained to greatjiower in 

state, but it never gained complete domination. 

Sverre was a man of great intellectual strength; he 
was a born leader of men, a capable warrior, and a re- 
sourceful captain. When it began to look as if victory 
would crown his efforts, the archbishop fled to England 
and from his refuge in Saint Edmundsbury excommuni- 
cated the king. But exile is irksome to an ambitious man, 
and after a time the fiery prelate retuned to Norway 
and was reconciled to the strenuous ruler. System's 
successor, however, took up the fight once more; and 
when Sverre made Norway too uncomfortable for him, 
he fled to Denmark and excommunicated his royal op- 
ponent. A few years later, Innocent III, who had just 
ascended the papal throne, also excommunicated Sverre, 
and threatened the kingdom with an interdict.* But 
the papal weapons had little effect in the far North; the 
king forced priests and prelates to remain loyal and to 
continue in their duties. No doubt they obeyed the ex- 
communicated ruler with great reluctance and much 
misgiving; but no other course was possible, jor the w 
nation was with the king. 

The militant Faroese was a man with strong literary 
interests; he was educated for the priesthood and it is 
believed that he had actually taken orders. He was elo- 

* It is usually stated that Innocent III actually did lay an interdict on the 
land, but this appears to be an error. He authorized the bishops to do so, 
but they seem not to have made use of the authorization. See Bull, " Inter- 
diktet mot Sverre": Historisk Tidsskrift, Femte Rsekke, III, 321-324. 


quent in speech, but he realized the power of the written 
as well as of the spoken word. It is a fact worth noting 
that among the Northmen of the thirteenth century 
learning was not confined to the clergy. While the author 
nf tVio gVafiji'o Mt'rrnr urges the prospective flierchant to 
]egrj| T^fl.tin and Preriph., he fljpo warns him 

hisjmather tongue., King Sverre replied to the ecclesi-/ 
astical decrees with a manifesto in the Norwegian Ian- - 
guage in which he stated his position and his claims for f^ 
the royal office. This pamphlet, which is commonly ^ 
known as " 4B-Address against the Bishops," was issued 
about 1199 and was sent to all the shire courts to be 
read to the freemen. It was a cleverly written document 
and seems to have been very effective. In spite of the 
fact that the king was under the ban, ^he^mas.sfi& re- 
mained loyal. 

Between the political theory of the Address and the 
ideas of kingship expressed in the King's Mirror there 
is an agreement which can hardly be accidental. It is 
more likely that we have in this case literary kinship of 
tfre first degree. It has been thought that King Sverre 
may have prepared his manifesto himself, but this is 
scarcely probable. Some one of his court, however, must 
have composed it, perhaps some clerk in the royal scrip- 
torium, for the ideas developed in the document are 
clearly those of the king. It has also been suggested that 
the Address and the Speculum Regale may have been 
written by the same hand; * but the only evidence in 
support of such a conclusion is this agreement of political 

* This appears to be Heffermehl's opinion. See Historiske Skrifter tilegnede 
Ludvig Daae, 87. 


ideas, which may have originated in a careful study of 
the earlier document by the author of the later work. 

King Sverre's Address begins with a violent attack on 
the higher clergy: the bishops have brought sorrow upon 
the land and confusion into holy church. This deplorable 
condition is ascribed chiefly to a reckless use of the 
power of excommunication. In this connection the king 
is careful to absolve the pope from all guilt: his unfortu- 
nate deeds were due to ignorance and to false represen- 
tations on the part of the bishops. It is next argued that 
excommunication is valid only when the sentence of 
anathema is just; an unjust sentence is not only invalid 
but it recoils upon the head of him who is the author of 
the anathema. In support of this contention the author 
of the manifesto quotes the opinions of such eminent 
fathers as Saint Jerome, Saint Augustine, Pope Gregory 
the Great, and other authorities on canon law. It will 
be remembered that the king himself was under the ban 
at the time. The author argues further that his view is 
supported by reason as well as by the law of the church. 
Bishops have been appointed shepherds of the flocks of 
God; they are to watch over them, not drive them away 
into the jaws of the wolves. But if a bishop excommuni- 
cates one who is without guilt, he consigns him to hell; 
and if his decree is effective, he destroys one of God's 

From this subject the Address passes to the nature of 
the royal office. " So great a number of examples show 
clearly that the salvation of a man's soul is at stake if 
he does not observe complete loyalty, kingly worship, 
and a right obedience; for kingly rule is created by God's 


command and not by the ordinance of man, and no man 
can obtain royal authority except by divine dispensa- 
tion." The king is not a secular ruler only, he also has 
holy church in his power and keeping. It is his right and 
duty to appoint church officials, and the churchmen 
owe him absolute loyalty the same as his other subjects. 
Christ pointed out the duty of church officials quite 
clearly when he paid tribute to his earthly ruler, one 
who was, moreover, a heathen.* 

It will be seen that the Address puts forth four claims 
of far-reaching importance: kingship is of Hi vino igJQ 
flFld th p king T2]lfg_hy t^ Q grn fif froH; the 
royalty extends, t.o fop rhiirr*h WP]| a,<^ t.n t-b*VtStat** 
includes the power fo aj>pnint. the, r^ferf} o/f flip 
disloyalty to the king is a mortal sin; an unjust sentence 
of excommunication is invalid and iniures him onlv who 
publishes the anathema*. On all these points the King's 
Mirror is in complete agreement with Sverre's mani- 

In the course of the dialog in the Speculum Regale the 
son requests his father to take up and discuss the office 
and business of the king; for, says he, " he is so highly 
honored and exalted upon earth that all must bend 
and bow before him as before God." f Th^ father ac- 
r>mmt fnr tn*> p<pwfr and dignity ^f kingship in thin 

Way: men bow hpfnrp flip Icing as hpfnrp OnH 

he represents the exalted authority of God; he 
God's own name and occupies the highest Judgment 

* The Address is published as an appendix to the Christiania edition of the 
King's Mirror. It has also been issued in separate form under the title En 
Tale mod Biskopperne; this edition is by Gustav Storm, 
t C. xliii. 


psi.t. npnn earth: consequently, whejLOjnLehpJlPls^Lking, 
it is as if he honors God himself, because .oltheJitle-that. 
he has from God.* 

The author evidently realizes that statements of this 
sort will not be accepted without further argument, and 
he naturally proceeds to gn've his doctrine a basis in 
history. The reverence due kingship is fully 


illustrated with episodes in the career of David. So long 
as God permitted King Saul to live, David would do 
nothing to deprive him of his office; for Saul was also 

\ the Lord's anointed. He took swift revenge upon the 

) man who came to his camp pretending that he had slain 
Saul; for he had sinned against God in bearing arms 
against His anointed. He also calls attention to Saint 
Peter's injunction: " Fear God and honor your king;" 
and adds that it is " almost as if he had literally said 

\ that he who does not show perfect honor to the king 

\ioesnotfear God." | 

To emphasize his contention that kingship is of divine 
origin, the author cites the^example of Christ. The mir- 
acle of the fish in whose mouth the tribute money was 
found is referred to in the Address as well as in the King's 
Mirror. Peter was to examine the first fish, not the 
second or the third. In the same way, and here the argu- 
ment is characteristically medievall"^ every man should 
in all things first honor the king and the royal dignity; 
for God Himself calls the king His anointed. "%\ 
[But, objects the son,yhoa^cQuld Christ who is him- 
self the lard nf he^Vfin and fiaTth bf willing tr> gnV>rnit t^. 
An....fifl.rt.h1y_.AiitIinrit^Lp To this the father replies that 

* C. xliii. f C. xliv. J Ibid. 



.s a. fmpst. /f no is 

Yft thft divine j^yt^iitinTi nf lrJngcnip pf any bo nftr Of 

'dignity i* The author evidently deems it important, to 
t*"> retention: for if Christ. 

Caesar a,,i to n rigfr**" 1 on+K/M-jf.Y, tli^ fh]|rf>h in 

Secular r"lfT g ^"1^ g^Qr rp ]y p]pim tr> V>o fnllnaring in 

footsteps of the faster. 

It seems to be a safe conclusion that the doctrine of 
the divine character of kingship as developed in the 
King's Mirror is derived from King Sverre's Address, 
unless it should be that the two have drawn from a com- 
mon source. There is nothing novel about Sverre's ideas 
except the form in which they are stated; fundamentally 
they are a return to the original Norwegian theory of 
kingship. The Norwegian kings of heathen times were 
descendants of divine ancestors. Thpy recognized ft"* will 

Qgg^mKli^g Qg Q T^Q] lirm'tQ + iryn on tJ1fj r 

Dow^ers but fif) TP! 10*1 one fl.iitnoTit.v f^oiilri dflim su~ 
pprinrit,y +^ +1h ^ Tnl^r The j^ing was inH^f^ himseh 6 a 
priest. r ft. media/tor between the gods and men. The 

Christian Irincrs 

in a very real manner; they had 

bishops and ha.H also on nrrasinn remnvpH thprn 

claini of the archbishop to overlordshii) was therefore 
distinctly an innovation. The king makes use of argu- 
ments from the Bible to support his theory, not because 
it was based on Scriptural truths, but because to a 
Christian people these would prove the most convincing. 
In his statement of the filings and majesty ^ *^g 
xnynl pow^r, the author of the Speculum Regale goes, 

* C. xliv. 


however, far beyond the author of the Address. So com- 
plete is the king's power, " that he may dispose as he 
likes of the lives of all who live in his kingdom." * He 
" owns the entire kingdom as well as all the people in it, 
so that all the men who are in his kingdom owe him 
service whenever his needs demand it."f These sen- 
tences would indicate that the author's position lies 
close to the verge of absolutism. But Norwegian king- 
was anything bi]f PibH 11 *^ f>1 F ^'"ff 

in tJiegovexiimeni. Professor Ludvig Daae has put forth 
the hypothesis that the author of the King's Mirror was 
acquainted with the governmental system of Frederick 
II in his Italian kingdom, which he governed as an abso- 
lute monarch, t There may be some truth in this for 
there is no doubt that the character of Frederick's 
government was known to the Northmen; but it is also 
possible that the theory of absolute monarchy had a 
separate Norse origin, that the insistence on divine right 
in the long fight with the church had driven the parti- 
sans of monarchy far forward along the highway that 
led to practical absolutism. Less than a generation after 
the King's Mirror was composed, the newer ideas of 
kingship appear in the legislation of Magnus Lawmen- 
der. Kings have received their authority from God, for 
" God Himself deigns to call Himself by their name; " 
and the preamble continues: "he is, indeed, in great 
danger before God, who does not with perfect love and 
reverence uphold them in the authority to which God 

* C. xliii. f C. xxviii. 

f'Studier angaaende Kongespeilet " : Aarboger for nordisk Oldkyndighed, 

1896, 189. 


has appointed them."* This is the doctrine of the Ad- 
dress as well as of the Speculum; the significant fact is 
that the principle has now been introduced into the 
constitution of the monarchy. It is possible that 
author of the King's Mirror states an alien principle; but 
it is more probable that he merely gives form to a belief 
that had been growing among Northmen for some time. 
On the question of thervalidity of excommunication] 
the teachings of the Speculum Regale are in perfect ac- 
cord with those of the Address. The uncompromising 
position and methods of Innocent III had given point 
to an exceedingly practical question: was a Christian 
permitted to nbpy a king wl^n was under thp fran of 
church ? Of Jif rally thp nhiirnli liplH thflt-oborlionofv 

thfi rirninastaTKWfr- would -ho ninful. The author of the 

Speculum Hi'gt.inginalipg pl^ly. however, between just 

and unj ust sentences- of excommunication 

established two houses ypon fftrth, f 

altar and the house of the judgment seat.f There Js^ 

therefore, a legitimatp sphere ^f f^^ti^^ ^ r *he bishop fl.fi_ 

well as for frhft Icinpr, JRn-t a.n apt, is not npoessarily rjghi:- 

eous henausfiJt-emanates ffmn lijgh authority fit^pr in o /VA>^ 

the .chiirrJi ,or JLa~the stater If ihg^i^g pronnnnnps ^n 

iinjiist jiiHgmpntj his apt is mnrHpr.} if a.hishnp ax^nm- 

municates a Christian without proper reasons, the ban 
is-oLao .effect, except that it reacts upon the offending 
prelate himself .J 

After the author has thus denied the right of the 
church to use the sword of excommunication in certain 

* Norgesgamle Love, II, 23; Gjerset, History of the Norwegian People, 1, 463. 
fC.lxix. JC.lxx. 


cases, there remains the question : Jias the .king., any, su- 
perior authority over the church ? The answer is that 
king has such authority;) and the author fortifies his 
position by recalling the story bow Solomon punished 
Ahinthnr the high p^ or bishop as he is called in the 
King's Mirror. l^^^U^^h^ 
whether SolamfflLd^^ Abiathar 

of the high-pxiestly office, the father, affirms ..thatJiie 
acted properly and according to law. The king-is 
for th ft reason that he must 

not jpnly -bis-own house .ol judgment, -but a] so the 
pf the ^JtajywhiVh is ordinarily in the, bishnp^ 

keeping. Abiathar had sinned in becoming a party to the 
treasonable intrigues of Adonijah, who was plotting to 
seize the throne of Israel while his father David was 
still living, [inasmuch as the high priest had attempted 
to deprive the Lord's anointed of his royal rights, Solo- 
mon would have been guiltless even if he had taken 
Abiathar's lifeTJThe author also calls attention to the 
fact that Abiathar was elevated to the high-priestly 
office by David himself .* 

On the qimst^" of the king's right tn pprHrol ppi's^n- 
pal appointments the Kin (fa Mirror is also in agreement 
with the earlier Address. On the death of Archbishop 
John, the Address tells us, " Inge appointed Eystein, 
his own chaplain, to the archiepiscopal office f . . with- 
out consulting any cleric in Trondhjem, either the 
canons or any one else; and he drove Bishop Paul from 
the episcopal throne in Bergen and chose Nicholas 
Petersson to be his successor." Doubtless the philosopher 

* C. Ixx. f Archbishop Eystein was consecrated in 1161. 


of the King's Mirror, when he wrote of the fall of 
Abiathar, was also thinking of the many Abiathars of 
Norwegian history in the twelfth century, especially, 
perhaps, of the bishops of Sverre's reign, who had striven 
so valiantly to rid the nation of its energetic king. There 
can be no doubt, however, that he regarded t.fip 
frrr^y as jnf pri ' nr to thp secular government. 
who iinright.pni]fi1.y excommunicates a Norwegian king 
and ai.t.emptsjjnjjbis way to render hi iTnp ftfiS j^1p as a 
rnW r fojfci'tff pnt nnly his nffW hut Lie lifp 

There was another problem in the middle ages which. 
also involved the question of jecclesiastical authority] as 
opposed to[secular jurisdictionj the rjght of 
There can be no doubt that " 

it. wa,s,wp11 that tbflfi 

an accused might find security for a time at least; but 
the right of sanctuary was much abused, too frequently 
it served to shield the guilty.. The King's Mirror teaches 
unequivocally that the right of sanctuary cannot be in- 
yoked against the orders of the king. As usual the author 
finds support for his position in the Scriptures. Joab fled 
to God's tabernacle and laid hold on the horns of the altar ; 
nevertheless, King Solomon ordered him to be slain, and 
the command was carried out.* Solomon appears to 
have reasoned in this wise: "It is my duty to carry out 
the provisions of the sacred law, no matter where 
the man happens to be whose case is to be determined." 
It was not his duty to remove Joab by force, for all just 
decisions are God's decisions and not the king's; and 
" God's holy altar will not be defiled or desecrated by 


Joab's blood, for it will be shed in righteous punish- 
ment." * And the author is careful to emphasize the fact 
that God's tabernacle was the only house in all the world 
that was dedicated to Him, and must consequently have 
had an even greater claim tosacredness than the churches 
of the author's own day, of which there was a vast 
number, f 

There was a Norwegian Joab in the first half of the 
thirteenth century, who, like the chieftain of old, plotted 
against his rightful monarch and was finally slain within 
the sacred precincts of an Augustinian convent. Skule, 
King Hakon's father-in-law, was a man of restless am- 
bition, who could not find complete satisfaction in the 
titles of earl and duke, but stretched forth his hand to 
seize the crown itself. In 1239 he assumed the royal 
title, but a few months later (1240) his forces were sur- 
prised in Nidaros by the king's army, and the rebellion 
came to a sudden end. Skule's men fled to the churches; 
his son Peter found refuge in one of the buildings be- 
longing to the monastery of Elgesseter, but was dis- 
covered and slain. After a few days Duke Skule himself 
sought security in the same monastery; but the angry 
Birchshanks, in spite of the solemn warnings and 
threatenings of the offended monks, slew the pretender 
and burned the monastery.! This was an act of violence 
which must have caused much trouble for the king's 
partisans, and it is most likely the act which the author 
of the King's Mirror had in his thoughts when he wrote 
of the fate of Joab. 

*C.lxix. fC.lxvii. 

J Hdkonar Saga, cc. 239-241; Munch, Del norske Folks Historic, III, 977-978. 


Writers on political philosophy usually begin their 
specific discussion of the theory of divine right of king- 
ship when they come to the great political theorists of the 
fourteenth century.* The most famous of these is Mar- 
siglio of Padua, who wrote his Defensor Pacis in 1324. 
In this work he ^ <i!pr t l fd *h?-t t^** ^*iipfTor derived his 
title and sovereignty from God and that his authority 
was superior to that of the pope. Some years earlier 
William Occam, an English scholar and philosopher, 
made similar claims for the rights of the king of France. 
Earlier still, perhaps in 1310, Dante had claimed divine 
right for princes generally in his famous work De Mo- 
narchia. Somewhat similar, though less precise, ideas 
had been expressed by John of Paris in 1305. But nearly 
two generations earlier the doctrine had been stated in 
all its baldness and with all its implications by the au- 
thor of the King's Mirror; and more than a century be- 
fore Dante wrote his work on " Monarchy " Sverre had 
published his Address to the Norwegian people. So far 
as the writer has been able to determine there is no 
treatise on general medieval politics, at least no such 
treatise written in English, which contains even an allu- 
sion to these two significant works. 

The ethical ideas that are outlined in the Speculum 
Regale are also of more than common interest. On most 
points the learned father preaches the conventional 
principles of the church with respect to right and wrong 
conduct, and as a rule his precepts are such as have 
stood the test of ages of experience. He emphasizes 
hoftest^afc^pR]in gj careful attendee upon worship^ 

* On this subject, see Figgis, Divine Right of Kings, c. iii. 


vnti tn t>iP nlmrfh; he warnsJhis son to shun 
f every sort; -fr* rmigf a|gQ aypiH gambling, ajirl 
r[jjpTriTig to excess.* In some respects the author's jnora,L 
code is Scandinavian rather than Christian: in the, em- 
phasis that he places upon reputation and the regardjn 
which one is held by one's neighbors he seems to echojjie 
sentiment that runs through the earlier Eddie poetry, 
especially the " Song of the High One." " One thing I 
know that always remains," says Woden, " judgment 
passed on the dead." f And the Christian scribe more 
than three centuries later writes thus of one who has 
departed this life: " But if he lived uprightly while on 
earth and made proper provision for his soul before he 
died, then you may take comfort in the good repute that 
lives after him, and even more in the blissful happiness 
which you believe he will enjoy with God in the other 
world." t And again he says: " Now you will appreciate 
what I told you earlier in our conversation, namely that 
much depends on the example that a man leaves after 

The author is also Norse in his emphasis on modera- 
tion in every form of indulgence, on the control of one's 
passion, and in permitting private revenge. His attitude 
toward this present world isjSot medievajQ we may enjfi$L. 
the good things of creation, though not to excessX)n 
the matter of revenge, however, his ideas are character- 
istically medievaJL Private warfare was allowed almost 
everywhere in the middle ages, and it appears to have 
a place in the political system of the Speculum Regale* 

* Cc. iii-iv, xxxvii. % C. xli. 

t Hdvamdl, 40: Corpus Poeticum Boreale, I, 8. C. xlii. 



But on this point too the author urges moderation. "When \ 
you hear things in the speech of other men which offend \ 
you much, be sure to investigate with reasonable care \ 
whether the tales be true or false; but if they prove to 
be true and it is proper for you to seek revenge, take / 
it with reason and moderation and never when heated / 
or irritated." * 

The theology of the King's Mirror, as far as it can be 
discerned, is also medieval, though it is remarkable that 
the Virgin and the saints find only incidental mention in 
the work. No doubt if the author had been able to com- 
plete his treatise as outlined in his introduction, he 
would have discussed the forms and institutions of the 
church at greater length and we should be able to know 
to what extent his theological notions were in agreement 
with the religious thought of the age. 

In this connection his t.hf nr y 

a^ crime . is of peculiar interest. He makes con- 
siderable use of Biblical narratives to illustrate his 
teachings and refers at length to some of the less worthy 
characters of Holy Writ, including certain men who 
suffered death for criminal offenses. Almost invariably 
he justifies the punishment by arguing that it was betten. 
for the criminal to suffer a swift punishment in death. 
than to suffer eternally in hell. Apparently his theory is 
that a criminal can cleanse himself in his own blood, 
that a temporal death can save him from eternal punish- 
ment^ The idolaters who were slain by Moses and the 
Levites f " were cleansed in their penance and in the 
pangs which they suffered when they died; and it was 

* C. xli. t Exodus, xxxii. 


much better for them to suffer a brief pain in death than 
a long torture in hell." The sacramental efficiency of the 
death penalty seems also to extend to the one who exe- 
cutes punishment: for those who assisted Moses in the 
slaughter sanctified their hands in the blood of those 
who were slain. In the same way "a king cleanses 
himself in the blood of the unjust, if he slays them as a 
rightful punishment to fulfil the sacred laws."* 

There can be little doubt that this doctrine of the 
death penalty also shows the influence of the great civil 
conflict which ended with the death of Duke Skule in 
1240. During a century of factional warfare there had 
been much violence, much slaughter, much " swift 
punishment." Applied to Norwegian history the au- 
thor's argument amounts to a justification of the slaugh- 
ter at Elgesseter; for Skule and his partisans had re- 
belled against the Lord's anointed. The hands of the 
Birchshanks were cleansed and sanctified in the blood 
of the rebels; but the author also has this comforting 
assurance for the kinsmen of the fallen, that their souls 
were not lost: Skule and his companions were cleansed 
from their sins in the last great penance of death. 

It may also be that this same long record of violence^, 
treason, and rebellion was responsible for the prom^ 
nence that the King's Mirror gives to the duty of obedi- 
ence. In the political ethics of the work obedience is the 
chief virtue and the central principle. Conversely diso- 
bedience is the greatest of all sins. When Saul spared the 
Amalekites, whom the Lord had ordered him to destroy, 
he sinned far more grievously than did David when he 
* C. Ixi. 


dishonored Uriah's wife and afterward brought about 
Uriah's death; for Saul neglected to carry out the com- 
mands of God, and " no offense is graver than to be 
disobedient toward one's superiors." * 

The King's Mirror is a medieval document; it was in 
large part inspired by the course of events in Norway 
during the century of the civil wars; it records the scien- 
tific and political thought of a certain definite period in 
Norwegian history. But even though the author of the 
work must be classed among the thinkers of his own 
time, his place is far in advance of most of his fellows. 
His outlook on the world is broader than that of most 
medieval writers. In matters of science he is less credu- 
lous and IgssJKpupH hy thpftJ^giVal tliigV than others 
who wrote on these subjects in his own century or 
earlier. On such questions as the cause of earthquakes 
and the source of the northern lights he shows an ppen- 
mindedness, which is rarely met with in the middle 
ages.| For the author's view of life was not wholly me- 
dieval; on many subjects we find him giving utterance 
to thoughts which have a distinctly modern appearance. 

His theory of tViP staip anH itc fiinntinng ic Hi<atinrtl.y 

But it is probably in the field of education 

where the great Northman is farthest in advance of his 
time. In his day the work of instruction was still in the 
hands of the church; and the churchmen showed no 
great anxiety to educate men except for the clerical 
profession. The King's Mirror, however, teaches that 

t See Larson, " Scientific Knowledge in the North in the Thirteenth Cen- 
tury ": Publications of the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study, 
I, 141-146. 



mcrchanti mint rf ^ pHii^ipd: they must learn the 
art of reckoning and those facts of science that are of 
interest to navigators; they must study languages, 
Latin, French, and Norwegian; and they must become 
thoroughly acquainted with the laws of the land. But 
the author does not stop here: a merchant should also 
educate his children. " If children be given to you, let 
them not grow up without learning a trade; for we may 
expect a man to keep closer to knowledge and business 
when he comes of age, if he is trained in youth while 
under control." 

The identity of the author of the Speculum Regale has 
never been disclosed. Anonymous authorship was not 
uncommon in medieval Norse literature: many of the 
sagas were written by men whose names are not known. 
In the thirteenth century, however, it had become cus- 
tomary for writers to claim the honors of authorship. 
Our philosopher of the King's Mirror clearly understood 
that his readers would be curious to know his name: if 
the book, he tells us in his introductory chapter, has 
any merit, that should satisfy the reader, and there is 
no reason why any one should wish to search out the 
name of the one who wrote it.f Evidently he had a pur- 
pose in concealing his identity, and the motive is not 
far to seek. 

After the death of King Sverre (1202) the conflict be- 
tween the king and the hierarchy ceased for a time. The 
church made peace with the monarchy; the exiled 
bishops returned; and the faction of the Croziermen 
disintegrated. After a few years, however, the old 
*C.iv. C.i. 


quarrels broke out anew. On the accession of Hakon IV 
the church yielded once more, though the prelates did 
not renounce their earlier claims. In 1245, when plans 
were being made for King Hakon's coronation, the 
bishops put forth the suggestion that the king should, 
on that occasion, renew the agreement of 1163, which 
gave the bishops control of the succession. But the 
great king refused. "If we swear such an oath as King 
Magnus swore, then it seems to us as though our honor 
would be lessened by it rather than increased." * He 
flatly asserted that he would be crowned without any 
conditions attached to the act, or the crown " shall 
never come upon our head." 

After the arrival of Cardinal William of Sabina, who 
had been sent by the pope to officiate at the coronation, 
and while preparations for that joyous event were going 
forward, the subject was brought up once more. On the 
suggestion of the Norwegian bishops the cardinal asked 
the king to take Magnus Erlingsson's oath; but the 
king again refused, and the cardinal decided that " there 
is no need to speak of it oftener." f The king was 
crowned and there was peace between the two great 
forces of church and monarchy, at least so long as 
Hakon lived. Sometime not long before or after the 
coronation of the great king (1247) the King's Mirror 
seems to have been written. It is clear that such ideas 
as are enunciated in this work with respect to the snb- 
mission..o the church to the authorities of the state can 
not have, been xelished by the hierarchy, and perhaps 
they were just then somewhat unwelcome to the secular 

* Hdkonar Saga, c. 247. f /&* c. 251. 



rulers as well, since a discussion of this sort might tend 
to renew ill feeling and stir up strife. Consequently the 
author may have thought it wiser to remain anony- 

Earlier students of the Speculum Regale have believed 
that the author was some local chieftain, who had spent 
his more active days at the royal court, but who had 
later retired to his estates and was spending his declin- 
ing years in literary pursuits. Various efforts have been 
made to find this chieftain,* but with no success; there 
is no evidence that the lords or crusaders who have been 
suggested as probable authors had any literary interests 
or abilities. There can be no doubt that the author was 
at one time a prominent member of the royal retinue; 
he asserts in several places that such was the case.f He 
is, furthermore, tori thorough Jy famiJmr 

rvf f 

3ional -g*i ytifr .."merely. At the same time it is not likely 
that he was a secular lord ; it SPPT^IS impnssihlp that h^ 
could have been anything but a churchman. He knows 

/the Latin language; he is well acquainted with sacred 
history; he has read a considerable number of medieval 

^ books. It is quite unlikely that the various types of 
learning that are reflected in the chapters of the King's 
Mirror could be found in the thirteenth century in any 
scholar outside the clerical profession. He could not 
have been one of the higher ecclesiastics, as the prelates 
belonged to the faction of the Croziermen. The Specu- 
lum Regale was evidently written by a member of the 

* See the Soro edition, xxiii;|Munch, Del norske Folks Historic, III, 399, note. 
t Cc. ii, iii, xxx. 


Norwegian priesthood, though it is possible that he be- 
longed to one of the minor orders. But at all events he 
was a professional churchman.* 

There was an old belief in Norway that the work was 
written at King Sverre's court, perhaps by the priest- 
king himself ;f but this theory is wholly without foun- 
dation. Professor Ludvig Daae, believing that only a 
few Northmen possessed the necessary qualifications for 
the authorship of such a work as the King's Mirror, con- 
cluded that it must have been written by Master 
William, one of the chaplains at the court of Hakon IV.J 
Master William was evidently a man of some erudition; 
he held a degree (magister) from a European university; 
he must have traveled abroad and was no doubt a man 
of experience; he lived and flourished in the period when 
the work must have been composed. But there is no 
shred of evidence that Master William actually wrote 
the King's Mirror or that he was interested in the prob- 
lems that are discussed in this work. 

More recently A. V. Heffermehl has made an attempt 
to prove that the author so long sought for was Ivar 
Bodde, a Norwegian priest, who seems to have played 
an important part in the history of Norway in the first 
half of the thirteenth century as an influential member 
of the anti-clerical party. Much is not known of Ivar 

* Cf. Daae, "Studier angaaende Kongespeilet ": Aarbogerfor nordisk Oldkyn- 

dighed, 1896, 180-181. Daae holds that the author was a clergyman. 

t Ibid., 1896, 173. 

j Ibid., 1896, 192-196; see also pp. 179 ff. Daae believes that Master William 

must have held a position at court corresponding to the office of chancellor; 

he also conjectures that he was the tutor of the king's sons. Master William 

is mentioned in the Hdkonar Saga, cc. 210, 228. 

Historiske Skrifter tilegnede Ludvig Daae, 79-104 (" Presten Ivar Bodde "). 

Ivar is one of the characters in Ibsen's Pretenders. 


Bodde, and nearly all that we do know comes from a 
speech which he is reported to have delivered in his own 
defence in 1217.* He entered King Sverre's service " be- 
fore the fight was at Strindsea," which was fought in the 
summer of 1199. This was also the year in which King 
Sverre seems to have issued his famous Address. " I had 
good cheer from the king while he lived, and I served 
him so that at last I knew almost all his secret matters." 
In King Inge's reign (1204-1217) he served in the ca- 
pacity of chancellor: " and that besides, which was 
much against my wish, they relied on me for writing 
letters." During the same reign he also served as Prince 
Hakon's foster father, and was consequently responsible 
for the education of the great king.f Ivar was also 
skilled in military arts: he was a warrior as well as a 
priest .J He was apparently twice sent to England on 
diplomatic errands, first to the court of King John, later 
to that of Henry III. He withdrew from the court in 
1217. In 1223 he reappears as one of the king's chief 
counsellors. After this year nothing is known of Ivar 

The author of the King's Mirror was a professional 
churchman who belonged to the ^nti-cleric^)f action ; 
he was a master of the literary art. Ivar Bodde was a 
man of this type; nothing is known of his literary abil- 
ities, but it is clear that a man who was entrusted with 
the king's correspondence can not have been without 

* Hdkonar Saga, c. 21. 

t Historiske Skrifter tilegnede Ludvig Daae, 88-89 (Heffermehl) ; Hdkonar 

Saga, c. 20. 

I Historiske Skrifter tilegnede Ludvig Daae, 80. 

Ibid., 81, 85. 


literary skill. There seems to be no reason why Ivar 
Bodde could not have written the King's Mirror, and he 
may also have had a hand in the preparation of Sverre's 
Address; but that he actually did write either or both 
of these important works has not yet been proved ; there 
may have been other priests in Norway in the thirteenth 
century who stood for the divine right of Norwegian 

From certain geographical allusions it is quite clear 
that the work was written in Norway and in some part 
of the country that would be counted far to the north. 
The author mentions two localities in the Lofoten region 
and he shows considerable knowledge of conditions else- 
where in Halogaland; * but it is evident that he did not 
reside in that part of the kingdom when he was at work 
on his great treatise. It is generally agreed that the 
home of the Speculum Regale is Namdalen, a region 
which lies northeast of the city of Trondhjem and 
which touches the border of Halogaland on the north. f 
This conclusion is based on certain astronomical obser- 
vations on the part of the author, namely the length of 
the shortest day, the daily increase in the length of the 
day, and the relationship between the length of the 
sun's path and the sun's altitude at noon of the longest 
and the shortest day.J The Norwegian astronomer Hans 
Geelmuyden has determined that if the author's state- 
ments on these points are to be regarded as scientific 
computations, they indicate a latitude of 65, 64 42', 
and 64 52' respectively. All these points lie within the 


f See the Sorb" edition, pp. lix-lx; the Christiaua edition, p. v. 

J Cc. vi, vii. 


shire of Namdalen.* As the author can scarcely have 
been much more than a layman in the fields of mathe- 
matics and astronomy, the agreement as to results ob- 
tained is quite remarkable. 

The problem of place is relatively unimportant, but 
the question of the date of composition has more than 
mere literary interest. There is nothing in the work it- 
self which gives any clue to the year when it was begun 
or completed. It seems evident, however, that it was 
written after the period of the civil wars, though while 
the terrors of that century of conflicts were yet fresh in 
the memories of men. For various other reasons, too, 
it is clear that the King's Mirror was composed in the 
thirteenth century and more specifically during the 
reign of Hakon IV. 

The allusion to the Byzantine emperor Manuel Com- 
nenus,f whose reign began in 1143, gives a definite date 
from which any discussion of this problem must begin. 
It is also clear that the work was written after the church 
had begun to lay claim to power in the government of 
the state, which was in 11634 The a.uthor looks back to 
an evil time when minorities were frequent and joint 
kingships were the rule; but the period of joint rule 
virtually came to a close in 1184 when Sverre became 
sole king; and the last boy king whom the author can 
have taken into account was Hakon IV, who was thir- 
teen years old when he was given the royal title. It 
therefore seems evident that the King's Mirror was 
written after 1217, the year of Hakon's accession. 

* " Om Stedet for KongespeUets Forfattelse ": Arkiv for nordisk Filologi, L 


t C. viii. J See above, p. 36. See above, pp. 33-35. 


On the other hand, it is also quite evident that the 
treatise can not have been written after the great re- 
vision of the Norwegian laws which was carried out 
during the reign of Magnus Lawmender. The new court- 
law, which was promulgated about 1275, is clearly later 
than the Speculum Regale: the fine exacted for the death 
of a king's thegn, which is given as forty marks in the 
King's Mirror, is fixed at a little more than thirteen 
marks in Magnus' legislation. In 1273 the law regu- 
lating the succession to the throne made impossible the 
recurrence of joint kingships; but the principle of this 
arrangement appears to have been accepted as early as 
1260, when the king's son Magnus was given the royal 
title. Another decree, apparently also from Hakon's 
reign, which abolished the responsibility of kinsmen in 
cases of manslaughter and deprived the relatives of the 
one who was slain of their share in the blood fine, also 
runs counter to methods described in the King's Mirror, 
which states distinctly that kinsmen share in the pay- 
ment.* It is therefore safe to conclude thatthe work was 
written some time between QQ17 and 1260J) 

The earliest attempt to date the King's Mirror was 
made by the learned Icelander, Hans Finsen. In an 
essay included in the Soro edition (1768) he fixes the 
time at about 1164.f J. Erichsen, who wrote the intro- 
duction to this edition, doubts that it was composed at 
so early a date; impressed with the fact that the work 
reflects the political views of the Birchshank faction, he 
is inclined to place the date of composition some time 
in Sverre's reign or in the last decade of the twelfth 

* C. xxxvi (p. 201) . f See page xx of the Soro edition. 


century.* The striking resemblance between the ideas 
expressed in the treatise and the guiding principles of 
Sverre's regime led the editors of the Christiania edition 
to the same conclusion: 1196 or soon after, f And so it 
was held that the work is a twelfth century document 
until a Danish artillery officer, Captain Otto Blom, be- 
gan to make a careful study of the various types of 
weapons, armor, and siege engines mentioned in the 
work. His conclusion, published in 1867, was that the 
King's Mirror reflects the military art of the thirteenth 
century and that the manuscript was composed in the 
latter half of the century, at any rate not long before 
1260.J This conclusion has been accepted by Gustav 
Storm, Ludvig Daae,|| and virtually all who have 
written on the subject since Blom's study appeared, 
except Heffermehl, whose belief that Ivar Bodde was 
the author could not permit so late a date, as Ivar, who 
was a man of prominence at Sverre's court about 1200, 
must have been an exceedingly aged man, if he were 
still living in 1260. Heffermehl is, therefore, compelled 
to force the date of composition back to the decade 

The weakness of Captain Blom's argument is that he 
supposes the military art described in the Speculum 
Regale to be the military art of the North at the time 
when the work was written. If all the engines and ac- 
coutrements that the author describes ever came into 
use in the North, it was long after 1260* Nearly all the 

* See pages Ixv-lxvi of the Sorb" edition. | Christiania edition, p. viii. 

I Aarbogerfor nordisk Oldkyndighed, 1867, 65-109. See above, p. 32. 
Arkivfor nordisk Filologi, III, 83-88. 
|| Aarbogerfor nordisk Oldkyndighed, 1896, 176-177. 


weapons and devices mentioned were in use in southern 
Europe and in the Orient in earlier decades of the thir- 
teenth century; some of them belong to much earlier 
times. If certain engines and devices which Captain 
Blom is disposed to regard as mythical are left out of 
account, it will be found that only three items fail to 
appear in illustrations from the earlier part of the thir- 
teenth century; and it would not be safe to assume that 
these were not in use because no drawing of them has 
been found. 

Viewed against the background of Norwegian history, 
those chapters of the King's Mirror which deal with the 
nature and the rights of monarchy and with the place of 
the church in the state take on the appearance of a po- 
litical pamphlet written to defend and justify the doings 
of the Birchshank party. The motives for composing an 
apology of this sort may be found at almost any time in 
the thirteenth century but especially during the decade 
that closed with the coronation of Hakon IV. It will be 
remembered that the author of the King's Mirror dis- 
cusses the calamities that may befall a kingdom as a 
result of joint rule.* But in 1235, after one of Earl 
Skule's periodic attempts at rebellion, his royal son-in- 
law granted him the administration of one-third of the 
realm. The grant was ratified the next year with certain 
changes : instead of a definite, compact fief the earl now 
received territories everywhere in the kingdom. In 1237 
Skule was given the ducal title and to many men it 
seemed as if the curse of joint kingship was about to 
afflict the land once more. Two years later the partisans 

* C. xxxvi. 


of the duke proclaimed him king: like Adonijah of old 
he tried to displace the Lord's anointed.* But after a 
few months came the surprise of Skule's forces in 
Trondhjem and the duke's own tragic end in Elgesseter 
convent.f It will be recalled that the author defends 
King Solomon's dealings with Joab and lays down the 
principle that the right of sanctuary will not hold 
against a king.f The rebellion of the Norwegian Ado- 
nijah was in 1239; he died the death of Joab in 1240. 
Three years later the believers in a strong monarchy 
were disturbed by the news that the bishops had revived 
the old claim to supremacy in the state. Soon after this 
series of events the political chapters of the King's Mir- 
ror must have been composed. 

In 1247, the year of Hakon's coronation, the hierarchy 
was once more reconciled to the monarchy, and nothing 
more is heard of ecclesiastical pretensions during the re- 
mainder of the reign. It would seem that after this recon- 
ciliation, no churchman, at least not one of the younger 
generation, would care to send such a challenge as the 
King's Mirror out into the world. One of the older men, 
one who had suffered with Sverre and his impoverished 
Birchshanks, might have wished to write such a work 
even after 1247; but after that date the surviving fol- 
lowers of the eloquent king must have been very few 
indeed, seeing that Sverre had now lain forty-five years in 
the grave. It is therefore the writer's opinion, though it 
cannot be regarded as a demonstrated fact, that the clos- 
ing chapters of the King's Mirror were written after 
1240, the year when Duke Skule was slain, perhaps after 

* C. Ixvi. f See above, p. 48. } C. Ixix. 


1243, in which year Norwegian clericalism reasserted it- 
self, but some time before 1247, the year of Hakon's cor- 
onation and final reconciliation with the church. 

In the centuries following its composition the King's 
Mirror appears to have had wide currency in the North. 
When the editors of the Sorb* edition began to search for 
manuscripts, they found a considerable number, though 
chiefly fragments, in Norway and Iceland; and traces of 
the work were also found in Sweden.* Thus far twenty- 
five manuscripts have come to light; " some of them 
are extensive, but many are fragments of only a few 
leaves. "f Copies of the work were made as late as the 
reformation period and even later. 

The first mention of the Speculum Regale in any 
printed work is in Peder Claussb'n's " Description of 
Nor way, "J the manuscript of which dates from the 
earlier years of the seventeenth century. But more than 
one hundred years were still to pass before this impor- 
tant work was brought to the attention of the literary 
world. Early in the eighteenth century, however, great 
interest began to be shown in the records of the Old 
Northern past. The great Icelandic scholar and antiqua- 
rian, Arne Magnussen, had begun to collect manuscripts 
and was laying the foundation of the Arnamagnean col- 
lection, which is one of the treasures of the Danish cap- 

* See the Soro edition, pp. xxix-xxxvii. 

f Konungs Skuggsjd (ed. G. T. Fiona), p. i. Among the fragments is a part of 
a Latin paraphrase made in Sweden in the first hah* of the fourteenth cen- 
tury. The translator was a cleric in the service of the Duchess Ingeborg, a 
daughter of the Norwegian King Hakon V. Ingeborg was married to the 
Swedish Duke Erik. Arkivfor nordisk Fttologi, I, 110-112. 
t Norrigis Bescriffuelse. See Aarboger for nordisk Oldkyndighed, 1896, 172 


ital. Among other things he found several copies and 
fragments of manuscripts of the Speculum Regale. No 
effort was made to publish any of these before the mid- 
dle of the century was past; but about 1760 three young 
scholars began to plan editions of this famous work. 
The first to undertake this task was Professor Gerhard 
Schoning,* a Norwegian by birth, who was at the time 
rector of the Latin school in Trondhjem but later held 
a professorship in the Danish academy at Soro. Scho- 
ning began the preparation of a Latin translation of the 
work, which he planned to publish along with the origi- 
nal version; but his work was never completed. About 
the same time an Icelandic student at the University of 
Copenhagen, Hans Finsen,f later bishop in his native 
island, projected an edition, but was unable to carry 
out his plans for want of a publisher, and turned his ma- 
terials over to others. The third and only successful 
attempt at publication was made on the suggestion of 
a recently organized association of Icelandic scholars 
known as " the Invisible " society. This association re- 
quested Halfdan Einersen,J rector of the Latin school 
at Holar, one of the members and founders of the " in- 
visible " body, to prepare an edition. An Icelandic mer- 
chant, Soren Pens, generously offered to bear all the 
expense of publication.! 

Rector Einersen prepared the text from the best avail- 
able Icelandic manuscripts. He also made a Danish 

* Schoning's dates are 1722-1780. He was professor of Latin literature and 
history at Soro, but his real achievements lie in the field of Norwegian history, 
f 1739-1796. t 1732-1785. 

See the introduction to the Soro edition, xxv-xxviii, from which the above 
facts have been culled. 


translation and a Latin paraphrase of the same and for- 
warded the whole to Denmark to be published. The 
materials were given into the editorial charge of another 
learned Icelander, Jon Erichsen, teacher of jurispru- 
dence at Soro Academy. Although Jon Erichsen's name 
does not appear on the title page, it is quite clear that 
the general excellence of the work is in large measure 
due to his careful collation of Einersen's text with man- 
uscripts to which the Icelandic rector had not had ac- 
cess. Professor Erichsen discarded Einersen's Danish 
translation and prepared one of his own. He also found 
place in the volume for a dissertation by Hans Finsen, 
which was first published in 1766, and in which the 
learned theologian discusses various literary problems, 
such as the authorship of the work, the date of compo- 
sition, and the like. All these materials were brought to- 
gether and published at Soro in 1768. On the whole the 
Soro edition is an excellent piece of work. The Icelandic 
text was made with great care and reveals the fact that 
the editors were possessed of a critical insight which for 
the time was remarkable. The Danish translation is 
somewhat stiff and literal and does not always follow 
the laws of Danish syntax; but it is generally accurate 
and retains an unmistakable flavor of the Old Norse 

Except for some assistance rendered by Professor 
Scheming, the first edition of the King's Mirror was 
the work of Icelanders. The Norwegians were also be- 
ginning to show some interest in their medieval past; 
but Norway was still a part of the Danish monarchy, 
the political and intellectual center of which was Co- 


penhagen, and for half a century longer the Norwegians 
were unable to do anything to promote the publication 
of historical materials. However, four years after the 
Soro edition had come from the press, a society of Norse- 
men at the University of Copenhagen was organized, the 
purpose of which was to further the cause of Norwegian 
autonomy. After Norway in 1814 resumed her place 
among the nations of Europe, it was only natural that 
Norwegian scholars should be attracted to the Old 
Norse treasures of the middle ages. So far as the means 
of the impoverished state would allow, publication of 
the sources of Norwegian history was undertaken. The 
first Norwegian historian of distinction was Rudolf Key- 
ser, professor in the University of Christiania. In his 
efforts to draw the attention of his countrymen to the 
glories of earlier centuries, he was soon reenforced by 
his younger contemporary, the fiery and industrious 
scholar and investigator Peter Andreas Munch, who, 
though his work is somewhat marred by the fervor of 
his patriotism, has not yet found a superior among the 
historians of the North. Soon a third was added to these 
two: Carl R. Unger, a man of remarkable abilities as a 
linguist. These three now undertook to edit a series of 
Old Norse texts, among which was the King's Mirror, 
which was published under the auspices of the Univer- 
sity of Christiania in 1848. 

The Christiania edition is based on the main manu- 
script of the Speculum Regale, the manuscript 243 B of 
the Arnamagnean collection. This was produced in Nor- 
way some time during the last quarter of the thirteenth 


century, perhaps not long after 1275.* As the manu- 
script was incomplete in part, the editors also made use 
of the copies which had been made the basis of the ear- 
lier edition. Inasmuch as the materials to be used had 
been copied at different times and consequently reflected 
various stages of linguistic development, it was thought 
desirable to normalize the orthography: and in this part 
of their task the editors made use of a fragment which 
was thought to belong to a somewhat earlier date than 
the main manuscript. f If this belief is correct, the Chris- 
tiania edition must, in respect to orthography, be a com- 
paratively close approximation of the original manu- 

In 1881 a third edition prepared by the German phi- 
lologist Otto Brenner was published under the title 
Speculum Regale, ein altnorwegischer Dialog. Brenner 
based his text on the Norwegian manuscript 243 B, 
but he also made use of the Icelandic copy (243 A) and 
of some of the older fragments. His edition consequently 
includes all the materials that had been used in the ear- 
lier editions. It was Brenner's purpose to prepare a text 
which should give the Norwegian version in its original 
form, so far as such a restoration is possible. Though 
scholars are not agreed that Brenner achieved his pur- 
pose, all have acknowledged the value of his work, and 
since its publication his version has been regarded as 
the standard edition. 

Two years ago (1915) the University of Illinois pub- 
lished, under the editorial direction of Professor George 

* See Flom's edition of Konungs Skuggsjd, introduction, 
t See the Christiania edition, pp. xiii-xvi. 


T. Flom, a photographic reproduction of this same man- 
uscript, 243 B. This important linguistic monument 
has thus been made accessible to scholars in its original 
form. Professor Flom has also prepared the Old Norse 
text of the manuscript, which makes a part of the pub- 
lication, and has prefaced the whole with an extended 
introduction in which he discusses the history of the 
manuscript, marginal addenda, abbreviations, and other 
paleographic and linguistic problems. 

Until very recently the Danish version prepared by 
Jon Erichsen for the Soro edition was the only transla- 
tion of the Speculum Regale into a modern language.* 
But a few years ago the first part of the work was pub- 
lished under the title Kongespegelen in the form of a 
translation into New Norse, a language of recent origin 
based on the spoken dialects of Norway. As these dia- 
lects are closely related to the original idiom of the 
North, such a translation can be made with comparative 
ease. The work has recently been completed, and in 
most respects the New Norse version proves to be a 
very satisfactory translation. 

Some years ago a number of American scholars who 
have interests in the fields of Scandinavian history, lan- 
guage, and literature united to form a Society for the 
Advancement of Scandinavian Study. The founders be- 
lieved that the purpose of the organization might be in 
part achieved by encouraging the publication of some 
of the great Scandinavian classics in English transla- 
tion. It was on the suggestion of this Society that the 

* In 1892 a small volume of extracts from the King's Mirror translated by 
Chr. Dorph was published in Copenhagen. 


writer undertook to prepare the present version of the 
King's M'irror. The translation is based on the text of 
the Christiania edition, the readings of which have been 
consistently followed, except in a few instances where 
the scribe does not seem to have copied his manuscript 
correctly; in such cases the most satisfactory variant 
readings have been followed. 


1 PASSED all the crafts before my mind's eye and 
studied intently all the practices belonging to each 
craft; and I saw a vast multitude walking wearily along 
the paths that slope downward from the highways of 
virtue into error and vice. Some of these were very steep, 
and those who followed them perished in desolate ra- 
vines; for the long, wearisome road had fatigued them, 
and they had not enough strength left to climb up the 
hillside, nor were they able to find the by-paths that led 
back to the highways of virtue. 

[The destruction of this multitude was due, it seemed 
to me, to various causes: some perished through igno- 
rance, for the ways of error were trodden so generally 
that they appeared to be the most convenient to follow, 
and ignorant men mistook them for highways, since the 
majority seemed to walk in them; some perished be- 
cause of laziness and carelessness; others feared that 
they would suffer derision and contumely, if they walked 
the highroad alone; while still others were led astray by 
perversity, wickedness, and the various passions.] 

But when I had observed how good morals were 
scorned and how the scorners perished, I began to won- 
der how to find a road where I should not be traveling 
entirely alone and yet would not have to choose one of 
those paths where the crowd were exhausting their 



strength, lest the steep climb should weary me, if I 
were to make an effort to get back up again. 
Inasmuch as my father was still living and loved me ) 
well, I thought it would be better to seek his counsel / 
than after a slight consideration to reach a decision C 
which might displease him.JSo I hastened to my father 
and laid the whole problem before him. He was a wise 
and kind man, and I found that he was pleased when 
he heard that my errand was to learn right conduct. He 
permitted me to ask whatever I wished about the prac- 
tices of the various crafts, and how they differed. He 
also promised to make known to me all the usages that 
are most properly observed by each craft that I might 
ask about. He further promised to point out, as a warn- 
ing, the paths of error which most men enter upon when 
they leave the highways of virtue. Finally he promised 
to show me the by-paths that those may take who 
wish to return from wrong roads to the highway. 


Thereupon I began my inquiry by asking about the 
activities of merchants and their methods. At the close 
of the first discussion, when my questions had all been 
answered, I became bolder in speech and mounted to a 
higher point in our review of the conditions of men; for 
next I began to inquire into the customs of kings and 
other princes and of the men who follow and serve them. 
Nor did I wholly omit to ask about the doings of the 
clergy and their mode of life. And I closed by inquiring 

into the activities of the peasants and husbandmen, w } 10 
till the soil, and into their habits and occupation. 

But when my father had given wise and sufficient re- 
plies to all the questions that I had asked, certain wise 


and worthy men, who, being present, had heard my 
questions and his wise and truthful answers, requested 
me to note down all our conversations and set them in 
a book, so that our discussions should not perish as soon 
as we ceased speaking, but prove useful and enjoyable 
to many who could derive no pastime from us who were 
present at these conversations. 

So I did as they advised and requested. I searched my 
memory and pondered deeply upon the speeches and 
set them all in a book, not only for the amusement or 
the fleeting pastime of those who may hear them, but 
for the help which the book will offer in many ways to 
all who read it with proper attention and observe care- 
fully everything that it prescribes. It is written in such 
a way as to furnish information and entertainment, as 
well as much practical knowledge, if the contents are 
carefully learned and remembere.d. But whoever has 
clear and proper insight will realize that, if a book is to 
develop these subjects fully, it will have to be a much 
larger work than this one. 

The book has been given a handsome title : it is called 
Speculum Regale, not because of pride in him who wrote 
it, but because the title ought to make those who hear 
it more eager to know the work itself; and for this rea- 
son, too, that if any one wishes to be informed as to 
proper conduct, courtesy, or comely and precise forms 
of speech, he will find and see these therein along with 
many illustrations and all manner of patterns, as in a 
bright mirror. And it is called King's Mirror, because in 
it one may read of the manners of kings as well as of 
other men._A king, moreover, holds the highest title and 


ought, with his court and all his servants, to observe the 
most proper customs, so that in them his subjects may 
see good examples of proper conduct, uprightness, and 
all other courtly virtues. Besides, every king should look 
frequently into this mirror and observe first his own con- 
duct and next that of the men who are subject to him. 

~" - *. (? o \-< ^>\ 

He should reward all whose conduct is good, but should 

discipline and compel those to observe good morals who => r \v 

cannot learn without threats. Although the book is first 
and foremost a king's mirror, yet it is intended for every 
one as a common possession; since whoever wishes is 
free to look into it and to seek information, as he may 
desire, about his own conduct, or any other type of 
manners which he may find discussed in the book. And 
I believe that no man will be considered unwise or un- 
mannerly who carefully observes everything that he 
finds in this work which is suited to his mode of living, 
no matter what his rank or title may be. 

If any one desires or is curious to hear or study this 
book, he need not inquire about the name or the stand- 
ing of the man who composed and wrote it, lest per- 
chance he should reject what may be found useful in it 
because of contempt, envy, or hostile feeling of some 
sort for the author.* 

* It seems probable that the form in which the author of the Speculum ex- 
presses his desire to remain anonymous shows the influence of the Old Norse 
version of the Elucidarium, a theological discussion in dialog form, which 
dates from the twelfth century and is ascribed to Honor ius of Autun. The 
author of the Elucidarium writes as follows in his preface: " My name, how- 
ever, I have purposely withheld, lest wicked men should be prompted by a 
feeling of envy to cast aside a useful work." For the original Latin preface 
to the Elucidarium see Migne, Patrohgia Latina, CLXXII, 1110; the Old 
Norse version is given in Annaler for nordisk Oldkyndighed, 1857, p. 240, 
1858, p. 24. 


This request, however, which surely may be granted 
to any man, we should like to make: we ask all good 
men who hear this book to give it careful thought and 
study; and if there should be aught which seems neces- 
sary to the work but has not been included, whether 
concerning morals and conduct or discreet and proper 
forms of speech, let them insert it in proper form and 
connection. And if they find any matters which seem to 
impair the work or to have been discussed at too great 
length, let them discreetly remove all such and thus, 
amending our ignorance in kindness, help our work to 
be appreciated in proper spirit. For it was not pride that 
impelled us to labor but good- will toward all who seemed 
to need and desire knowledge of this sort. 

When I went to my father with these inquiries that I 
have now mentioned, I learned in the very first words 
//*' ^thatfr addressed to him, how every one ought to salute 
C or address one's father /] 



Son. Good day,* sire ! I have come to see you as it be- 
hooves a humble and obedient son to approach a loving 
and renowned father; and I pray you to listen with pa- 
tience to the questions that I have in mind to ask and 
kindly to vouchsafe an answer to each one. 

Father. Inasmuch as you are my only son, I am pleased 
to have you come often to see me, for there are many 
subjects which we ought to discuss. I shall be glad to 

* Good day (God dag) is still the common form of greeting among Norwegians 
and other Scandinavians. 


hear what you wish to inquire about and to answer such 
questions as are (Hiscreetly asked/] /., 

Son. I have heard the common report (which I be- 
lieve is true) as to your wisdom, that in all the land it 
would be difficult to find a man who has greater insight 
into every form of knowledge than you have; for all 
those who have difficult matters to settle are eager to 
get your decision. I have also been told that the same 
was true (when you were at the royal court, and thaO c 

the entire government, lawmaking, treaty making, and 
every other sort of business, seemed to be guided fcy 
your opinion] Now as I am the [lawful heir to y*ur 
worldly possessionsj I should also like to share some- 
what in the heritage of your wisdom. Wherefore I wish 
to have you point out to me the beginnings and the al- 
phabet of wisdom, as far as I am able to learn them from 
you, so that I may later be able to read all your learned 
writings, and thus follow in your footsteps. [F*r I am 7 
sure that after your decease many will rely on your hav- ^ 
ing trained me after your own ways. ~] 

Father. It pleases me to hear you speak in this wise, 
and I shall be glad to answer; for it is algreat comfort to 
me that I shall leave much wealth for my own true son 
to enjoy after my daysj but 5 should scarcely regard him 
as a son, though I had begotten him, if he were a fool.] 
Now if you seek understanding, I will show you the basis 
and the beginning of all wisdom, as a great and wise man 
once expressed it:[j:o fear Almighty God, this is the be- 2 
ginning of wisdom. *JBut He is not to be feared as an^ 

* Proverbs, ix, 10. In the use of Scriptural quotations the author is seldom 


enemy, but rather with the fear of love, as the Son of 
God taught the man who asked him what the substance 
of the law was. For the Son of God referred him to the 
Scripture that reads as follows: Thou shalt love God 
with all thy heart and with all thy strength and with all 
thy might.* Now one should love God above everything 
else and fear Him at all times when evil desires arise; 
he should banish evil longings for God's sake, though he 
were bold enough to cherish them for men's sake. Now 
if you wish to know what are the beginnings and the 
first steps in the pursuit of wisdom, this is the true be- 
""' C ginning, and there is none other. Cfnd whoever learns 
~ / T~* ***#/ this and observes it shall not be wanting in true knowl- 

/, kr*/ V -> 

edge or in any form of goodness, j 

Son. This is indeed loving counsel, such as one might 
expect from you; besides, it is good and easily learned 


by every one whom fortune follows. Stilljjf one is to be 
reputed a wise man, it will surely be necessary to take 
up many things that pertain to the various crafts .J 

Father. This is the beginning and the alphabet of 
every good thing. But through the alphabet one learns 
to read books, and in the same way it is always better 
the more crafts are added to this art. For through the 
crafts a man gains wisdom whatever the calling that 
he intends to follow, whether that ofCkingsman,t yeo- 
man, or merchant// 

* St. Luke, x, 27. 

t A " kingsman " (konungsma&r) was any one who had formally entered into 
the king's personal service, whether he was actually employed at court or not. 
See below, cc. xxiv S. 





Son. I am now in my most vigorous years and have a 
desire to travel abroad; for[I would not venture to seek*) 
employment at court before I had observed the customs T 
of other menJSuch is my intention at present, unless you 
should give me other advice. 

Father. Although I have been a kingsman rather than 
a merchant, I have no fault to find with that calling, for 
often the best of men are chosen for it. But(much de- 
pends on whether the man is more like those who are 
true merchants, or those who take the merchant's name 
but are mere frauds and foisterers, buying and selling 

c - 

Son. [It would be more seemly for me to be like the ~) $^j 
rightful ones; for it would be worse than one might L 
think likely, if your son were to imitate those who are \ 
not as they ought.] But whatever my fate is to be, I de-s 
sire to have you inform me as to the practices of such 
men as seem to be capable in that business. 

Father. The man who is to be a trader will have to 
brave many perils, sometimes at sea and sometimes in 
heathen lands,* but nearly always among alien peoples; 
and it must be his constant purpose to act discreetly 
wherever he happens to be. On the sea he must be alert 
and fearless. 

* These " heathen lands " were probably the regions along the Arctic in- 
habited by the Finns; it is also possible that the author alludes to trading 
voyages to lands occupied by Esquimaux, though he makes no mention of 
these people anywhere in his work. 


/<L yWhen you are in a market town, or wherever you are, 
/ /be polite and agreeable; then you will secure the friend- 
\ship of all good men. Make it a habit to rise early in the 

\ morning, and go first and immediately to church wher- 
\ ever 'it seems most convenient to hear the canonical 
\ hours, and hear all the hours and mass from matins on. 
J Join in the worship, repeating such psalms and prayers 
as you have learned. When the services are over, go out 
\ to look after your business affairs. If you are unac- 
quainted with the traffic of the town, observe carefully 
how those who are reputed the best and most prominent 
' I merchants conduct their business. [You must also be 
careful to examine the wares that you buy before the 
purchase is finally made to make sure that they are 
sound and flawless. And whenever you make a purchase, 
\ call in a few trusty men to serve as witnesses as to how 
\ the bargain was made.J 
Arvn should keep occupied with your business till 

breakfast or, if necessity demands it, till midday;] after 
that you should eat your meal. [Keep your table well 
provided and set with a white cloth, clean victuals, and 
good drinks. Serve enjoyable meals, if you -can afford it.] 
After the meal you may either take a nap or stroll about 
a little while for pastime and to see what other good 
merchants are employed with, or whether any new wares 
have come to the borough which you ought to buy. On 
returning to your lodgings examine your wares, lest they 
suffer damage after coming into your hands. If they are 
found to be injured and you are about to dispose of 
themjjdo not conceal the flaws from the purchaser: show 
him what the defects are and make such a bargain as you 


can; then you cannot be called a deceiver.^Also put a / 
good price on your wares, though not too high, and yet I 
very near what you see can be obtained; then you can- 
not be called a foister. ~] 

Finally, remember this, that whenever you have an p . 
hour to spare you should [give thought to your studies,? 
especially to the law books ;]f or it is clear that those who?* 
gain knowledge from books have keeiier__wii& than ) & 
others, since those who are the most learned have the 
best proofs for their knowledge. Make a study of all the 
laws, but while you remain a merchant there is no law 
that you will need to know more thoroughly than the 
/JBjarkey code.?J]lf you are acquainted with the law, you 
will not be annoyed by quibbles when you have suits to 
bring against men of your own class, but will be able to 
plead according to law in every case. 

But although I have most to say about laws, I regard 
no man perfect in knowledge unless he has thoroughly 
.learned and mastered the customs of the place where he , A, 

is sojourning. [And if you wish to become perfect in 
knowledge, you must learn all the languages, first of all 
Latin and French, for these idioms are most widely usedJJ 
and yet, do not neglect your native tongue or speech.^, 



Son. May God reward you, sire, for the love of kin- 
ship that you show in pointing out so many things that 
I may find needful, if I have the good fortune to learn 

* The " Birch-isle " code was originally a set of rules governing commercial 
intercourse. After a time it became a more elaborate law governing the munici- 


them and to remember them after they are learned. And 
if you think there are any other important matters that 
ought to be taken up in this discussion, I shall be glad 
to listen attentively. 

Father. There are, indeed, certain matters which 
should not be omitted from this discourse, but they can 
be stated in a few words, if that seems best. Train your- 
self to be as active as possible, though not so as to injure 
your health. Strive never to be downcast, for a downcast 
mind is always morbid; try rather to be friendly and 
genial at all times, nf_g.n_pyen temper and neverjmoody. 
Be upright and teach the right to every man who wishes 
to learn from you; and always associate with the best 
men. Guard your tongue carefullv_i_this_is good counsel, 
for your tongue may honor ^oj^JbutuLLjxiay. also con- 
jpjrm ymi. .Though you_be^agry speak few words and 
jiever in passion rfor^ unless one is ^^^^jJ^J^y utter 
JKQjds jnwrath that he would later give gold tphay_. 
unspoken^Dn the whole, I know of no revenge, though 
many employ it, that profits a man less than to bandy 
heated words with another, even though he has a quarrel 
to settle with him. You shall know of a truth that no 
virtue is higher or stronger than the power to keep one's 
tongue from foul or profane speech, tattling, or slander- 
^fous talk in any form .[if children be given to you, let 
4 1 VjJbem not grow up without learning a trade]] for we may 

." t< ijl expect a man to keep closer to knowledge and business 

pality as well as the traders who were more or less permanently located there. 
It is believed that the name is derived from Birka, a trading center in eastern 
Sweden not far from the site of modern Stockholm. The " Birch-Isle " code 
is published in Norges Gamle Love, I, part iii, 303-336. 



when he comes of age, if he is trained in youth while 
under control. 

And further, there are certain things which you must 
beware of and shun like the devil himself : (Jhese are 7 
drinking, chess, harlots, quarreling, and throwing dice J 
fp- stakesj For upon such foundations the greatest \ 
calamities are built; and unless they strive to avoid 
these things, few only are able to live long without 
blame or sin. 

LObserve carefully how the sky is lighted, the course 
of the heavenly bodies, the grouping of the hours, and 
the points of the horizonjLearn also how to mark the ^ 
movements of the ocean and to discern how its turmoil 
ebbs and swells; for that is knowledge which all must 
possess who wish to trade abroad. ULearn arithmetic 
thoroughly, for merchants have great need of that.J^^^ 

Clf you come to a place where the king or some other "^ 
chief who is in authority has his officials, seek to win / 
their friendship; and if they demand any necessary fees / 
on the ruler's behalf, be prompt to render all such pay- I 
ments, lest by holding too tightly to little things you \ 
lose the greater. Also beware lest the king's belongings / 
find their way into your purse; for you cannot know but \ 
that he may be covetous who has those things in charge, / 
and it is easier to be cautious beforehand than to crave / 
pardon afterwards. Jlf you can dispose of your wares at 
suitable prices, do not hold them long; for it is the wont 
of merchants to buy constantly and to sell rapidly. 

If you are preparing to carry on trade beyond the 
seas and you sail your own ship, have it thoroughly 
coated with tar in the autumn and, if possible, keep it 





tarred all winter. But if the ship is placed on timbers too 
late to be coated in the fall, tar it when spring opens and 
let it dry thoroughly afterwards. Always buy shares in 
good vessels or in none at all. Keep your ship attractive, 
for then capable men will join you and it will be well 
manned. Be sure to have your ship ready when summer 
begins and do your traveling while the season is best. 
Keep reliable tackle on shipboard at all times, and never 
remain out at sea in late autumn, if you can avoid it. If 
you attend carefully to all these things, with God's 
mercy you may hope for success. This, too, you must 
keep constantly in mind, if you wish to be counted a 
wise man.J^aj^vou oughtjieyerjbojej: , a, day pass with- . 
out learning something that will profil^oiuJBe not like 
those who think it bejQejELththeir~~4ignity-to hear or learn 
from others such thin^^3ZB-a^--imritfr-ava41r4hem much 
i if the,y_Jbie:ffi.Jiiem^ as great 

A an honor to leariL.a& to. teach r if he wishes to be con- 

\\ ^ : ~" 

sidefed thoroughly informed. 

There remain a few minor matters that ought to be 
mentioned. Whenever you travel at sea, keep on board 
two or three hundred ells of wadmal of a sort suitable 
for mending sails, if that should be necessary, a large 
number of needles, and a supply of thread and cord. It 
may seem trivial to mention these things, but it is often 
necessary to have them on hand. You will always need 
to carry a supply of nails, both spikes and rivets, of such 
sizes as your ship demands; also good boat hooks and 
broadaxes, gouges and augers, and all such other tools 
as ship carpenters make use of. All these things that I 
have now named you must remember to carry with you 


on shipboard, whenever you sail on a trading voyage 
and the ship is your own. (When you come to a market 
town where you expect to tarry, seek lodgings from the< 
innkeeper who is reputed the most discreet and the most 
popular among both kingsmen and boroughmen^ Al- 
ways buy good clothes and eat good fare if your means 
permit; and never keep unruly or quarrelsome men as 
attendants or messmates. Keep your temper calm \ V 
though notto the point of suffering^ abuse or bringing 
upon yourself the reproach of cowardice. Though 

sity may_force_ypu into strife, be not in a hurry to take 
revenge; first make sure that your effort will succeed 
and strike where it ought. Never display a heated tem- 
per when you see that you are likely to fail, but be sure 
to maintain your honor at some later time, unless your 
opponent should offer a satisfactory atonement. 
[If your wealth takes on rapid growth, divide it and / 
invest it in a partnership trade in fields where you do V 
not yourself travel ;Jbut be cautious in selecting partners. 4 
CAlways let Almighty God, the holy Virgin Mary, and 9 
the saint whom you have most frequently called upon I 
to intercede for you be counted among your partners. j? 
Watch with care over the property which the saints are \ 
to share with you and always bring it faithfully to the ) ^ 
place to which it was originally promised. 7 

If you have much capital invested in trade, divide it \ 
into three parts: put one-third into partnerships with \ ^ 
men who are permanently located in market boroughs, 
are trustworthy, and are experienced in business. Place 
the other two parts in various business ventures; for if 
your capital is invested in different places, it is not likely 


that you will suffer losses in all your wealth at one time: 
more likely it will be secure in some localities, though 
frequent losses be suffered. But if you find that the 
profits of trade bring a decided increase to your funds, 
draw out the two-thirds and invest them in good farm 
land, for such property is generally thought the most 
secure, whether the enjoyment of it falls to one's self or 
to one's kinsmen^With the remaining third you may do 
as seems best, continue to keep it in business or place 
it all in lanoQjlowever, though you decide to keep your 
funds invested in trade, discontinue your own journeys 
at sea or as a trader in foreign fields, as soon as your 
means have attained sufficient growth and you have 
studied foreign customs as much as you likej Keep all 
that you see in careful memory, the evil with the good; 
remember evil practices as a warning, and the good 
customs as useful to yourself and to others who may 
wish to learn from you. 



Son. It is evident that whoever wishes to become in- 
formed on such matters as those which you have now 
discussed must first try to determine what is most worth 
learning and afterwards to keep in mind all that he has 
heard. But in your discussion just recently you men- 
tioned several things the nature of which I do not under- 
stand, though I have reflected upon your statements, 
namely, the lights of the sky and the movements of the 
ocean. Moreover, you urged me to learn these things 
and stated that there is knowledge in learning them. But 



I cannot comprehend them unless I shall hear them ex- 
plained; and I know of no other wise master with so 
kind a will to teach me these matters as yourself. There- 
fore, with your permission, I will ask you to continue 
this discussion, so that I may become somewhat better 
informed on these subjects: how the lights of the sky and 
the course of the heavenly bodies wax and wane; how 
the time of the day is told and the hours are grouped; 
but especially how the ocean moves and what causes its 
restlessness. For sometimes the ocean appears so blithe 
and cheerful that one would like to sport with it through 
an entire season; but soon it displays such fierce wrath 
and ill-nature that the life and property of those who 
have anything to do with it are endangered. Now I have 
thought that, althoughfthe sun completes its course ac- 7 
cording to an established lawjthat fact cannot produce 5 
the unquiet of the sea. If you are disposed to explain 
these things further, I shall listen gladly and attentively. 
Father, fl can indeed give such an explanation, just as 
I have heard it from the lips of well-informed men, and 
as seems most reasonable according to the insight that 
God has given me. The sun has received divers offices: 
for it brings light and warmth to all the earth, and the 
various parts of the world rejoice in its approaching; but 
its course is planned in such a way that it sometimes 
withdraws from those regions that it approaches at other 
times. When it first comes to visit the east with warmth 
and bright beams, the day begins to lift up silvery brows 
and a pleasant face to the east wind. Soon the east wind 
is crowned with a golden glory and robed in all his rai- 
ments of joy. He eases griefs and regretful sighs and 


turns a bright countenance toward his neighbors on 
either side, bidding them rejoice with him in his delight 
and cast away their winterlike sorrows. He also sends 
blazing rays into the face of the west wind to inform 
him of his joy and happiness. He advises the west wind, 
too, that in the evening he shall be clad in garments 
similar to those which the east wind wore in the morn- 
ing. Later in the day and at the proper hour the south- 
east wind displays the glory of his newly-gotten robes 
and sends warming rays with friendly messages into the 
face of the northwest wind. But at midday the south 
wind reveals how he has been endowed with riches of 
heat, sends warm gifts of friendship across to the north 
wind, warms his cool face, and invites all the neighbor- 
ing winds to share in the abundance of his wealth. As 
the day declines the southwest wind with glad face re- 
ceives the gentle sheen and genial beams. Having put 
away wrath, he reveals his desire for peace and concord ; 
he commands the mighty billows and steep wave-crests 
to subside with waning power and calls forth quickening 
dews in a wish to be fully reconciled with all his neigh- 
bors. Gently he blows a refreshing breath into the face 
of the northeast wind, warms his wind-chilled lips, and 
thaws his frosty brow and frozen cheeks. But when even- 
ing begins, the west wind, clad in splendor and sunset 
beauty as if robed for a festal eve, lifts a gleaming brow 
above a blithe countenance, and sends a message on 
darting beams across to the east wind telling him to 
prepare for the festive morrow to come. 

At sunset the northwest wind begins to raise his fair 
brows and with lifted eyelids betokens to all his neigh- 



bors that the dazzling radiance is now in his keeping. 
Thereupon he sends forth a shadow over the face of 
the earth proclaiming to all that now come the hours 
of rest after the toil of day. But at midnight the north 
wind goes forth to meet the coursing sun and leads him 
through rocky deserts toward the sparse-built shores. 
He calls forth heavy shadows, covers his face with a 
broad-brimmed helmet, and informs all that he is ar- 
rayed for the night watch to keep guard over his neigh- 
bors that they may have comfort and untroubled rest 
after the heat of day. With cool lips he gently blows 
upon the face of the south wind, that he may be better 
able to resist the violent heat of the coming day. He 
also scatters the dark clouds and clears up the face of 
heaven in order that the sun, when light appears, may 
be easily able to send forth his warm and radiant beams 
in all directions. But on the coming of morn the north- / 
east wind begins to open his closed eyelids and blinks ' 
to both sides as if to determine whether it is time to rise. 
Then he opens quickly his clear eyes as if sated with 
sleep after ended rest. Soon he leads forth the gleaming I 
day into all the homesteads like a fair youth and fitting 
herald, to give sure knowledge that the radiant sphere 
and shining sun follows close behind and to command 
all to be arrayed for his coming. Soon the sun rises and 
shoots forth his beams in all directions to watch over 
the covenant made by the winds; and after that he goes 
on through his ordained course as we have already told. J 
When peace has been established among (these chief s) 
that we have just named, it is safe to travel wherever 
you may wish through the realms of any one of them. 





Then the sea begins to bar out all violent storms and 
make smooth highways where earlier the route was im- 
passable because of broad billows and mighty waves; 
and the shores offer harbors in many places which for- 
merly gave no shelter. Now, while this covenant holds, 
there will be fair sailing for you or any others who wish 
to travel to foreign shores or steer their ships over the 
perils of the ocean. It is, therefore, the duty of every man, 
indeed it is a necessary one, to learn thoroughly when 
one may look for dangerous seasons and bad routes, or 
when times come when one may risk everything. For 
even unwitting beasts observe the seasons, though by 
instinct, since they have no intellect. Even the fishes, 
though lacking human insight, know how to find secu- 
rity in the deep seas, while the winter storms are most 
violent; but when winter wanes, they move nearer the 
shores and find enjoyment as after a sorrow suffered and 
past. Later in the spring after the roe has come, they 
lay the spawn and bring forth a vast multitude of young 
fishes and in this way increase their race, each after its 
kind and class. It does, indeed, show great forethought 
for unintelligent creatures to provide so carefully against 
the coming winter storms, and to bring forth their off- 
spring at the opening of spring, so that they may enjoy 
the calm weather of summer and search for food in 
peace and quiet along the wide shores; for thus they 
gather strength enough in summer against the ensuing 
winter to sustain themselves among other fishes in the 
chilly deep. 

The covenant brings joy to the sky as well as to the 
sea; for as spring advances the birds soaring high into 


the air rejoice with beautiful songs in the newly made 
treaty of (these lords] as in a coming festival. Their joy 
is as great as if they have escaped great and terrible 
dangers which might arise from the strife of these chief- 
tains. Soon they build nests upon the earth and lead 
birdlings forth from them, each after its kind. Thus they 
increase their species and care for their young in the 
summer that these may be able to find their own sus- 
tenance in the winter following. Even the earth rejoices 
in this peace-making, for as soon as the sun begins to 
pour out its warming rays over the face of the earth, 
the ice begins to thaw around the frozen grass roots; 
soon fragrant and fair-hued herbs sprout forth, and the 
earth shows that she finds gladness and festive joy in 
the fresh beauty of her emerald robes. She gladly offers 
to all her offspring the sustenance which she had to re- 
fuse them earlier because of the dearth in winter. The 
trees that stood with dripping branches and frozen roots 
put forth green leaves, thus showing their joy that the 
sorrow and distress of winter are past. 

Unclean and repulsive beasts display insight and un- 
derstanding in their ability to determine the proper 
time to increase their kind and to come out of their dens. 
They also observe the season when it is necessary to flee 
the cold and stormy distress of winter and seek shelter 
under rocks, in large crags, or in the deep scar of the 
landslide till the time to come forth is at hand. Wild 
beasts that seek their food in woods or on the mountains 
know well how to discern the seasons; for they bear the 
begotten offspring while winter is most severe, so that 
they may bring forth their young when the grass is 


fresh and the summer is warm. There is a little creeping 
thing called the ant, which can teach thoughtful men 
much practical wisdom, whether they be merchants or 
husbandmen, kings or lesser men. It teaches kings how 
to build castles and fortresses; in the same way it teaches 
the merchants and the husbandmen with what industry 
and at what seasons they ought to pursue their callings; 
for he who has proper insight and observes carefully the 
activities of the ant will note many things and derive 
much profit from them. All other creatures, too, whether 
clean or unclean, rejoice in this season, and with vigilant 
eyes seek their food in the warm summer time so as to 
be able to endure more confidently the perils of a desti- 
f tute winter season. fNow it is this covenant between 
\ these eight winds that calls forth all the delights of 
I earth and sky and the calm stirring of the sea accord- 
** ing to the commandjand mysterious skill of Him Who 
ordained in the beginning that thus should all nature 
remain until He should change the order of things. Now 
if you feel that some of these matters have not yet been 
fully cleared up, you may continue your inquiries and 
ask what questions you like. 



Son. It was a wise thought, it seems to me, to ask 
those questions to which I have just received such fair 
replies; and I am encouraged to inquire into certain 
other matters, namely the waxing of thefsun, the moon, 1 
and the streams or tides of the ocean, how much and / 
how rapidly these things wax and wane. Now these \ 


things that I have brought up for discussion are subjects f .*..; 
which especially touch the welfare of (seafaring menjand/ j 
it looks to me as if they would profit much from a knowl- f 
edge of these matters, since it gives insight into the / 
right conduct of their profession. And since I intend to ) ' 
labor diligently in the trader's callingJI should like very/ 
much, if it can be done, to have you explain further some 
of those things that I have just mentioned. 

Father. Those things that you have now asked about 
do not all wax or wane with equal rapidity; for the tide, 
when it rises, completes its course in_ seven days plus 
half an hour of the eighth day; and every seventh day 
there is flood tide in place of ebb. For the tide rises one 
seventh part daily from the time when the rise begins; 
and after it turns and begins to fall, it ebbs in the same 
way during the next seven days but is retarded as much 
as half an hour of the eighth day,* which must be added 
to the seven days. As to how long an hour should be I 
can give you definite information; for [there should be 7 
twenty-four hours in two days, that is, a night and a V 
day, while the sun courses through the eight chief points [ ^y 
of the sky: and according to right reckoning the sun will j 
pass through each division in three hours of the dayJOn / 
the other hand, the moon, while it waxes, completes its 
course in fifteen days less six hours; f and in a like period 
it wanes until the course is complete and another comes. 
And it is always true that at this time the flood tide is 
highest and the ebb strongest. But when the moon has 
waxed to half, the flood tide is lowest and the ebb, too, 

* The mean retardation is forty-eight minutes. 

f This is within twenty-two minutes of the length of the lunar half -month. 



is quite low. At full moon the flood tide is again very 
high and the ebb is strong. But when it has waned to 
half, both ebb and flood are quite low. Merchants are, 
however, scarcely able to note these changes, as the 
course is too swift; for the moon takes such long strides 
both in waxing and waning that men, on that account, 
find it difficult to determine the divisions of its course. 
The sun, on the other hand, completes its course more 
slowly both in ascending and declining, so that one 
'may easily mark all the stages of its course. [The sun 
I moves upward one hundred and eighty-two and one- 
half days and three hours and for a like period it recedes 
again; it has then completed its entire course, both as- 
cent and decline, in three hundred days, by the twelve- 
count * [360], plus five days and six hours. Every fourth 
year this becomes three hundred by the twelve-count 
and six days more[366]; this is called leap year, for it 
has one day more than the preceding twelvemonth, the 
additional hours being gathered into twenty-four, a 
night and a day Jin Latin all hundreds are counted by 
tens, and there are, therefore, properly computed three 
hundred by the ten-count plus sixty-six days whenever 
leap year occurs, while the intervening years have only 
five days and six hours with as many additional days by 
the other reckoning as I have just stated. 

But to your question concerning the growth of the 
sun's path, how one can most clearly discern it, I can 
scarcely give an answer so precise as not to be wrong 
in part; for the sun's path does not wax at the same 

* The Northmen in medieval times had two hundreds, the great hundred, or 
duodecimal hundred, which counted 120 (12 X 10) and the ordinary hundred 
(10 X 10). 


rate in all parts of the earth. I can, of course, answer 
according to what I have found in the writings of men 
who have treated the subject thoroughly, and it is 
generally believed that their words come very near the 
truth. I have already told you how many hours there 
are in a night and day and gave the number as twenty- 
four. * I have indicated the length of each hour in stat- 
ing that three hours pass while the sun moves across 
one division of the sky. Now there are some other little 
hours called ostensa^ sixty of which make one of those 
that I mentioned earlier. It seems to me quite likely 
that, as far north as we are, the sun's path waxes five 
of these little hours in a day and as much less than six 
as a twelfth part of a little hour. And as to the growth 
of the sun's path it seems most reasonable to me that 
it waxes three-fourths of these hours toward the east 
and the west and the remaining fourth in height toward 
the zenith. South of us, however, this reckoning will 
fail; for north of us the increase is greater and to the 
south less than we have just stated; and the farther 
south, the greater is the difference, and the sun more 
nearly overhead. 



Son. With your permission I wish to inquire some- 
what more fully into this subject, for I do not quite un- 
derstand it. You have said that the sun's ascent is more 
rapid to the north of us, where summer is almost want- 

* See Brenner's edition, 20. 

t Error for oslenta; the ostenium, computed at one-sixtieth of an hour, seems 

to appear first in the writings of Rabanus Maurus (ninth century). 


ing, while the strength of winter is so overpowering that 
summer seems like a mere shadow, and where in many 
places both snow and ice lie all through summer just as 
in winter, as is true of Iceland and particularly of Green- 
land. But I have heard that in the southlands there are 
no severe winters, the sun being as hot in winter as it is 
with us in summer; and that in winter, when the sun 
has less power, both grain and other crops grow, while 
in summer the earth cannot endure the fervent heat of 
the sun and consequently yields neither grass nor grain; 
so that in regions like Apulia and even more so in the 
land of Jerusalem the heat of summer causes as great 
distress as the cold of winter with us. Now when you 
tell me that the sun's path waxes faster here in the north 
than yonder in the south, I cannot see the reason why; 
for there the sun's heat is as great in winter as it is with 
us in summer; and it is so much greater in summer that 
all vegetation on the earth is scorched by it. Therefore 
it seems to me more likely that the sun's path waxes 
most rapidly where the heat is most intense. Now if 
you can and will clear this up for me so that I can 
grasp it, I shall listen gladly and attentively. 

Father. I shall begin my talk on the subject that I am 
now to take up with a little illustration, which may help 
you to a clearer insight, since you find it so difficult to 
believe the facts as stated. If you take a lighted candle 
and set it in a room, you may expect it to light up the 
entire interior, unless something should hinder, though 
the room be quite large. But if you take an apple and 
hang it close to the flame, so near that it is heated, the 
apple will darken nearly half the room or even more. 


However, if you hang the apple near the wall, it will not 
get hot; the candle will light up the whole house; and 
the shadow on the wall where the apple hangs will be 
scarcely half as large as the apple itself. FrpnaJjiis you 7 
may inferjjiat r the earth-circlejs_round like-_a-Jball and V 
not equajlyjaear the sun ^ every point. But where the^ 
curved surface lies nearest the sun's path, there will the 
greatest heat be; and some of the lands that lie contin- 
uously under the unbroken rays cannot be inhabited. 
On the other hand, those lands which the sun approaches 
with slanting rays may readily be occupied; and yet, 
some of these are hotter than others according as they 
lie nearer the sun's path. But when the curved and steep 
slope of the sphere-shaped wheel moves up before the 
light and the beams of the sun, it will cast the deepest 
shadow where its curved surface lies nearest the sun; 
and yet, the lands nearest the sun are always hottest.* 
Now I agree with you that Apulia and Jerusalem are 
hotter than our own country; but you must know that 
there are places where the heat is greater than in either 
of those just mentioned, for some countries are unin- 
habitable on account of the heat. And I have heard it 
stated as a fact, that even when the sun mounts highest, 
the night in those regions is very dark and quite long. 
From this you must conclude that where the strength 
and power of the sun are greater, since it is nearer, it 
must ascend and decline more slowly; for the night is 
long in summer when the sun mounts highest, and 
the day is long in winter when it sinks lowest. Now I 

* It is evident from this discussion that the author believes in a spherical 
earth; elsewhere, too, he speaks of the sphere of earth (jarftarbollr); see c. Ivi. 


shall explain this so clearly that you will understand it 

You know that here with us in winter the day and the 
course of the sun are brief; for so short is the sun's path 
that it passes through but a single region of the sky, and 
then only where the sun has considerable strength. But 
in many places the sun is not to be seen during a large 
part of winter, for example in Halogaland,* as we 
have not only heard tell but have often and constantly 
learned and observed with our own eyes. For we know 
definitely that from about November 10 to January 10 
there never comes a day so bright up north in Vaag or 
at Andenes | in Halogaland but that the stars in the 
sky are visible at midday as at midnight. And although 
the days have so much light that the stars cannot be 
seen, nevertheless, in most of the places that we have 
mentioned the sun remains invisible till January 23. 
But after that date the days lengthen and the sun 
mounts so rapidly, that beginning with April 6 day- 
light does not disappear before September 17, all the in- 
tervening time being one continuous day, for daylight 
never fails in all that while. From this you may safely 
conclude that, though the sun is hotter in the southern 
lands that we spoke of earlier, its course waxes and 
mounts more slowly where the night, even at mid-sum- 
mer, is deep and long and dark, and where tnere is never 
a time in the whole twelvemonth when day does not fail. 
But in Halogaland, as I have just said, there is no day 

* Halogaland, the modern Nordland, is that part of Norway lying north of 
the sixty-fifth parallel. 

t Vaag and Andenes are points in the Lofoten Islands; their latitudes are 68 
12' 35" and 69 18' 50" respectively. 


in winter and stars are visible at midday when the day 
should be brightest; later, however, when the days be- 
gin to lengthen, they grow so rapidly that early in spring 
daylight begins to tarry all the night and continues 
till much of the autumn is past. 

There remains one more proof which will seem very 
clear to you. You know that in those localities in Haloga- 
land that we have just mentioned the sun about May 15 
begins to shine with the same brightness by night as 
by day, never setting either at night or during the day 
but shining continuously in this manner and with this 
brightness, except when its light is obscured by clouds, 
even to July 25. Now you know that the sun is only 
moderately warm in Halogaland, and that there is but 
a little time in summer when it gives sufficient warmth. 
Still, there it is with its blazing disk about as long as we 
have just stated, and it maintains the daylight about as 
long as we have just computed. But neither fact is true 
of the southlands, though the sun is hotter there. Now 
these facts give evidence that the sun is more distant 
here, for it gives less heat. They also testify to the wax- 
ing of its course, for, since its light is as bright by night 
as by day, its path must lengthen more rapidly here. 
But yonder it waxes less and more slowly, for there the 
night has its prescribed period both for length and dark- 
ness in summer as well as in winter. 



Son. I see this so clearly now that I can no longer 
gainsay that the sun mounts higher and more rapidly 
up the sky where there is almost no day in winter and 


the sunlight is so abundant in summer that it shines by 
night as well as by day throughout almost the entire 
season. I also see that its course changes much less yon- 
der where it rises high in winter and gives long days with 
inuch heat and sunshine, though the night in summer is 
long and dark. (Seafaring traders ought to note the dif- 
ferences precisely so as to be able to determine what 
seas they are upon, whether they lie to the north or to 
the southjAnd it seems unnecessary to inquire any fur- 
ther into these matters, for I believe that I have had 
correct and sufficient answers. Now since we are wearied 
with profound questions and thoughtful discourse, let us 
rest from these for a while and turn our conversation to 
matters of a lighter sort. And even though I should in- 
quire about things that are not so useful as those others, 
which are of the highest utility, I pray you for the sake 
of our intimacy to vouchsafe replies to such questions 
as I may ask; for my mind is often as eager for amuse- 
ment as for things of useful intent. And it may seem 
restful in a long talk, if a few questions come up that 
can stir the mind to gentle mirth. I do not wish, how- 
ever, to bring such themes into our talk unless you give 
me permission. 

Father. I take it that you will ask no stupid questions, 
seeing that you have thus far inquired into such matters 
only as seem very pertinent; and you are therefore free 
to ask whatever you wish; for if the questions do not 
seem appropriate, we are at liberty to drop them as soon 
as we like. 

Son. Now that I am permitted to choose a topic for 
entertainment, it occurs to me that I have asked too 


little abou\ Ireland, Iceland, and Greenland Jand all the > 
wonders of those lands, such as fire and strange bodies 
of water, or the various kinds of fish and the monsters 
that dash about in the ocean, or the boundless ice both 
in the sea and on the land, or what the Greenlanders 
call the " northern lights," or the " sea-hedges " that 
are found in the waters of Greenland. 

Father. I am not much disposed to discuss the won- 
ders that exist among us here in the North, though my 
reason may be rather trivial : many a man is inclined to 
be suspicious and think everything fiction that he has 
not seen with his own eyes; and therefore I do not like 
to discuss such topics, if my statements are to be called 
fabrications later on, even though I know them to be 
true beyond doubt, inasmuch as I have seen some of 
these things with mine own eyes and have had daily 
opportunity to inquire about the others from men whom 
we know to be trustworthy and who have actually seen 
and examined them, and therefore know them to be 
genuine beyond question. My reason for bringing up 
this objection is that a little book has recently come into 
our country, which is said to have been written in India 
and recounts the wonders of that country. The book 
states that it was sent to Emmanuel, emperor of the 
Greeks.* Now it is the belief of most men who have 

* Manuel I, Comnenus, 1143-1180. The " little book " is thought to have 
been one of the many forms of the legend of Prester John, a fabulous Chris- 
tian ruler of India of whom much was heard in the middle ages. About 1165 
a letter from the " Presbyter Johannes " addressed to the emperor Manuel 
Comnenus was circulated through Europe and later found its way into the 
North. In the extant copies of this letter many marvels are told, though the 
wonder mentioned in the Speculum Regale does not appear. See Zarncke, Der 
Priester Johannes, 83-98. 


heard the book read, that such wonders are impossible, 
and that what is told in the book is mere falsehood. But 
if our own country were carefully searched, there would 
be found no fewer things here than are numbered in 
that book which would seem as wonderful, or even more 
so, to men of other lands who have not seen or heard 
anything like them. Now we call those things fiction 
because we had not seen them here or heard of them 
before the coming of that book which I have just men- 
tioned. That little book has, however, been widely circu- 
lated, though it has always been questioned and charged 
with falsehood; and it seems to me that no one has de- 
rived honor from it, neither those who have doubted it 
nor the one who wrote it, even though his work has been 
widely distributed and has served to amuse and tickle 
the ear, seeing that what is written in it has always been 
called fiction. 



Son. Of course I cannot know how widely our talks 
will travel either in our days or later; and yet, with your 
permission, I will again ask the pleasure of hearing fur- 
ther speech concerning those matters that we might 
think strange in other lands, but which we know are 
surely genuine. And we need not be so very skeptical 
of this book which is said to have been written in India, 
though many marvels are told in it; for there are many 
things in our own country, which, though not strange to 
us, would seem wonderful to other people, if our words 
should fly so far as to come thither where such things 


are unheard of. But if I should express surprise at any 
of those tales that are told in that book, it seems to me 
not least wonderful that manikins are able to subdue 
those great winged dragons which infest the mountains 
and desert places there, as the book tells us, and tame 
them so completely that men are able to ride them just as 
they please like horses, fierce and venomous beasts though 
they are said to be and not inclined to allow men in their 
neighborhood, still less to be tamed and to do service. 

Father. Both such and many other tales are told in 
that book which seem so marvelous that many express 
their doubts about them; but it seems to me that there 
is no need to compare the wonders that are described 
there with those that we have in our own country, which 
would seem as strange to men yonder as those that you 
have just mentioned seem to us. For it must be possible 
to tame wild beasts and other animals, though they be 
fierce and difficult to manage. But it would seem a 
greater marvel to hear about men who are able to tame 
trees and boards, so that by fastening boards seven or 
eight ells long under his feet, a man, who is no fleeter 
than other men when he is barefooted or shod merely 
with shoes, is made able to pass the bird on the wing, 
or the fleetest greyhound that runs in the race, or the 
reindeer which leaps twice as fast as the hart. For there 
is a large number of men who run so well on skis that 
they can strike down nine reindeer with a spear, or even 
more, in a single run. Now such things must seem incred- 
ible, unlikely, and marvelous in all those lands where 
men do not know with what skill and cleverness it is 
possible to train the board to such great fleetness that 


on the mountain side nothing of all that walks the earth 
can escape the swift movements of the man who is shod 
with such boards. But as soon as he removes the boards 
from his feet, he is no more agile than any other man. 
In other places, where men are not trained to such arts, 
it would be difficult to find a man, no matter how swift, 
who would not lose all his fleetness if such pieces of wood 
as we have talked about were bound to his feet. We, 
however, have sure information and, when snow lies in 
winter, have opportunity to see men in plenty who are 
expert in this art. 

Not long since, we mentioned a certain fact which 
must be thought exceedingly strange elsewhere, as it 
runs wholly counter to the order which holds good in 
most places with respect to the change from night to 
day, namely, that here the sun shines as bright and fair 
and with as much warmth by night as by day through 
a large part of the summer. 

In our own country, in More, there is a bog called the 
Bjarkudal bog, which must also seem wonderful: for 
every sort of wood that is thrown into it and left there 
three winters loses its nature as wood and turns into 
stone.* If it is thrown upon the fire, it will glow like 
stone, though before it would have burned like wood. 
I have seen and handled many such stones of which the 
half that rose above the mire was wooden, while the 
part submerged in the bog was wholly petrified. Now 
we must call that a marvel, for the bog is located in a 

* The " Birchdale " bog seems to be a myth; but that stories of such a marvel 
were current is evident from a statement by Giraldus Cambrensis, who has 
heard that there was such a bog in Norway. Opera, V, 86. More is an old 
Norwegian shire lying to the west of Trondhjem along the coast. 


forest which is heavily wooded with young trees of all 
sorts; and these are not injured so long as they are green 
and growing, but as soon as one is hewn down and, hav- 
ing begun to decay, is thrown into the bog, it turns into 
stone. ^ ^i a f ^/ Lj A^vwfc^W 



Son. I am familiar with all these things since they 
are found in our own country, and I have seen them all. 
But I have no knowledge of all those other marvels 
which are to be found in Iceland, Greenland, and Ire- 
land, and in the seas about those lands, for of those 
things I have heard rumors only. 

Father. Those lands, if we are to speak more fully 
about them, differ much in character and are not all of 
the same appearance. For the wonders of Iceland and 
Greenland consist in great frost and boundless ice, or 
in unusual display of flame and fire, or in large fishes 
and other sea monsters. And these countries are every- 
where barren and unfruitful and consequently almost 
unfit for habitation /But Ireland comes near being the > 
best land that is known to man, though the grape vine V f 

~i \ '*-X^^ 

does not grow there.'lyAnd there are many marvels in^ 


(Jreland, some of which are of such a character that this 

country may be called holier than all others. 7 

The country lies on that side of the world where heat 
and cold are so well tempered that the weather is never 
very hot or very cold. For all through the winter the 
cattle find their feed in the open, and the inhabitants 

* Cf. Giraldus Cambrensis, Opera, V, 26-28. Giraldus quotes Bede (Historia 
Ecclesiastica, i, c. 1). See also Isidore, Etymologiae, xiv, 6. 


wear almost no clothes there either in winter or in sum- 
mer. And so holy is this land beyond all others that no 
venomous animal can exist there, either snake or toad.* 
When such animals are brought in from other countries, 
they die as soon as they touch the bare earth or rock.f 
And if wood, earth, or sand is taken from that country 
and brought to a land where venomous beasts are found, 
and the sand or earth is strewn around them where they 
lie, they will never be able to cross the circle but must 
remain within it and perish. In the same way, if you 
take a stick of wood which has come from the country 
of which we now speak and trace a circle around them 
with it by scratching the soil with the stick, they will 
soon all lie dead within the circle. It is told of Ireland 
that men scarcely know of another island of equal size 
where there are so many holy men. We are also told that 

/the inhabitants of the country are by nature fierce and 
murderous and very immoral. But bloodthirsty though 

'they be, they have never slain any of the saints who are 
so numerous in the land; the holy men who have dwelt 
there have all died in sick bed. For the Irish have been 
kindly disposed toward all good and holy men, though 
they have dealt savagely with each other. J 

There is a lake in that country concerning the nature 
of which strange tales are told; it is called Logechag 

* Cf. Giraldus, Opera, V, 62; see also Bede, Hist. Eccles., i, c. 1. 
f "Wonders of Ireland" (Irish Nennius, 219); this writer states that the ex- 
periment has been made. 

t Giraldus tells us that the Irish are faithless and treacherous (Opera, V, 165) 
but that the island has no martyrs (ibid., 174). Cf. firiu, IV, 4 (Meyer, "Irish 
Memorabilia in the Speculum Regale "). 

The editor of the Irish Nennius gives this name as Loch n-Echach (Lough 
Neagh). P. 195, note. 


in the native speech. It is quite an extensive lake and 
has this property, that if you take a stick of the wood 
that some call holm and others holly but is called acri- 
folium * in Latin and fix it in the lake so that part of it 
is in the earth, a part in the water, and a part rising 
above, the part in the earth will turn into iron, the part 
in the water into stone, while that which stands out 
above will remain as before. But if you set any other 
sort of wood in the lake, its nature will not change.f 

Again, there are two springs on a mountain called 
Blandina,{ which is almost a desert mountain; these 
have a peculiar nature. One of them has this property 
that if you take either a white sheep, cow, or horse, or 
a man with white hair, and wash any one of these with 
the water, the white will immediately turn to coal black. 
And such is the nature of the other spring in that place 
that if a man washes himself in its water, his hair will 
turn to a snowy white as if he were an aged man, no 
matter what its color be before, whether red or white or 

There is also a lake in that country which the natives 
call Loycha. In that lake there is what appears to be a 
little floating island; for it floats about in the lake, here 

* Error for aquifolium. 

f See the " Wonders of Ireland " (Irish Nennius, 195) where a similar ac- 
count is given; but according to this " the part of it that sinks into the earth 
will be stone, the part that remains in the water will be iron." Giraldus writes 
of a petrifying well (fons) in the north of Ulster, but gives no place name. 
Opera, V, 86. See also Wright-Halliwell, Reliquiae Antiquae, II, 103. (Latin 
poem on the wonders of Ireland.) 

J Blandina (Bladina, Bladma) is the Slieve-Bloom range in central Ireland. 
Giraldus has heard of such springs, but he locates the one in Ulster and the 
other in Munster. Opera, V, 84. A spring that whitens hair is mentioned in 
Wright-Halliwell, Reliquiae Antiquae, II, 104, and in the Irish Nennius, 195. 


and there approaching the shore sometimes so near that 
one may step out upon it; and this occurs most fre- 
quently on Sundays. And such is the property of this 
islet that if one who is ill steps out upon it and partakes 
of the herbs that grow there, he is healed at once, no 
matter what his ailment may be. Another singular fact 
is this, that never more than one can come upon it at 
one time, though many may wish to do so; for as soon 
as one has landed, the island immediately floats away. 
It also has this peculiarity that it floats constantly about 
in the lake for seven winters; but as soon as the seventh 
winter is past, it floats to the shore somewhere and 
unites with the other land, as if it had always been 
joined to it. But when that moment has come, a crash 
like a peal of thunder is heard, and, when the din is past, 
another island can be seen in the lake of the same size 
and character as the earlier one. Thus it happens regu- 
larly every seventh year that, as soon as the one island 
has joined the mainland, another appears, though no 
one knows whence it comes.* 

There is another little island in that country, which 
the natives call Inhisgluer.f There is a large village on 
this island and also a church; for the population is about 
large enough for a parish. But when people die there, 
they are not buried in the earth but are set up around 
the church along the churchyard fence, and there they 

* See riu, IV, 6. Kuno Meyer knows of no such story in Irish folklore, but 
refers to similar tales told of floating islands in Wales and Scotland, 
f Inhisgluair, now Inishglory, is on the west coast of Ireland in county Mayo. 
Giraldus mentions the legend but assigns it to a different locality; see Opera, 
V, 83 and note. The Irish Nennius (193) adds that the nails and hair grow 
and that unsalted meat does not decay on the island. The island is also re- 
ferred to in the Reliquiae Antiquae, II, 103. 


stand like living men with their limbs all shriveled but 
their hair and nails unmarred. They never decay and 
birds never light on them. And every one who is living 
is able to recognize his father or grandfather and all the 
successive ancestors from whom he has descended. 

There is still another quite extensive lake that is 
called Logri.* In that lake is an islet inhabited by men 
who live a celibate life and may be called, as one likes, 
either monks or hermits; they live there in such num- 
bers that they fill the island, though at times they are 
fewer. It is said concerning this isle that it is healthful 
and quite free from diseases, so that people grow aged 
more slowly there than elsewhere in the land. But when 
one does grow very old and sickly and can see the end 
of the days allotted by the Lord, he has to be carried to 
some place on the mainland to die; for no one can die of 
disease on the island. One may sicken and suffer there, 
but his spirit cannot depart from the body before he has 
been removed from the island. 

There is another large lake which the natives call Log- 
herne.f In this lake there is a great abundance of fish of 
the sort that we call salmon; and the fish is sent into all 
the country about in such quantities that all have plenty 
for table use. In this lake there are also many islands, 
one of which is called Kertinagh by the natives. This 

* Giraldus refers briefly to this legend. Opera, V, 81. The editor of Giraldus' 
writings adds in a note (ibid.): " the isle of the living was three miles from 
Roscrea, parish of Cobally, in a lake called Loch Cre, now dried up." Roscrea 
is near the north edge of Munster not far from the Slieve Bloom mountains. 
See also the Irish Nennius, 217. Meyer identifies Logri with Loch Ree in west 
central Ireland. riu, IV, 7. 

t Probably Lough Erne, though Loch Uair, now Lough Owel, in Westmeath 
has also been suggested. 


island might very well be inhabited, as far as size is 
concerned, if men dared occupy it. But it is reported 
about this island that the powers of evil have as great 
authority over one-half of it as they have in hell itself. 
Venturesome men who have tried to settle there have 
said that they suffered as great trouble and torment as 
souls are believed to suffer in hell. But on the other 
half of the island there is a church with a churchyard 
about it. Both halves are now deserted, however, though 
we are told that over the half where the church is the 
demons have no power.* 

It once happened in that country (and this seems in- 
deed strange) that a living creature was caught in the 
forest as to which no one could say definitely whether it 
was a man or some other animal; for no one could get 
a word from it or be sure that it understood human 
speech. It had the human shape, however, in every de- 
tail, both as to hands and face and feet; but the entire 
body was covered with hair as the beasts are, and down 
the back it had a long coarse mane like that of a horse, 
which fell to both sides and trailed along the ground 
when the creature stooped in walking. I believe I have 
now recounted most of the marvels that have their ori- 
gin in the nature of the land itself, so far as we seem to 
have sure knowledge concerning them. 

* Giraldus calls this island the Purgatory of Saint Patrick; but this famous 
place was " on an island in Lough Derg, in county Donegal." Opera, V, 82-83 
and note. It seems likely, however, that two different legends have been con- 
fused in the Welshman's account. 




Son. I consider it fortunate that I had some curiosity^ \^ 

to know about these matters, for there are no doubt J AJ(P 
many so ill-informed that they have never heard about j 
such things. Most men who may hear these accounts / 
are likely to find them marvelous, though also somewhat / 
informing. But since I gather from your remarks that 
there may be certain other things that are wonderful 
and seem worth discussing, either native to the land 
or having some other origin, I wish to request that 
nothing be omitted which you consider worth men- / 
tioning, now that we have taken up these subjects. 1 1 / 

Father. There still remain certain things that may be 
thought marvelous; these, however, are not native to 
the land but have originated in the miraculous powers 
of holy men, and we know of a truth that these do exist 
Certain things are told, too, of which we cannot be sure 
whether they are credible or merely the talk of men, 
though they are common rumor in that country; but 
what follows we know to be true beyond a doubt. 

In that same lake that I mentioned earlier which is 
called Logri, lies a little island named Inisclodran. Once 
there was a holy man named Diermicius who had a 
church on the isle near which he lived. Injto_jthjs_church 

he is JliejDatron no Jemale 
dJto enjter. All beasts are aware of this, 

for both birds and other animals which are without 
human reason avoid it as carefully as humans do. And 


no creature of the female sex ever ventures into that 
churchyard, nor could it enter if it tried.* 

Once there was a holy man in that country named 
Kevinus, who lived in a place called Glumelaga.f At the 
time he lived almost as a hermit, and the event which 
we shall now relate occurred in his day. It so befell that 
a young man was living with him, a kinsman of his who 
was his servant, and the saint loved the youth very 
much. But the lad fell ill before his eyes, and the malady 
grew so heavy and severe that death seemed imminent. 
It was in the spring time, in the month of March, when 
the man's illness was at the worst. Then it happened 
that the youth asked his kinsman Kevinus to give him 
an apple, saying that he would find relief from his illness 
if he got what he asked for. It seemed unlikely, however, 
that apples could be gotten in that season, as the buds 
had only just begun to swell and sprout forth leaves on 
the fruit trees. But because the holy Kevinus grieved 
sorely over the illness of his kinsman, and also because 
he was unable to procure what he had requested, he 
knelt down in prayer and implored God to send him 
somewhat of those things, so that his kinsman might find 
the relief that he yearned for. Having risen from prayer, 
he stepped outside and looked around. Near the house 

* The holy island which is shunned by all females is mentioned by Giraldus 
(Opera, V, 80-81), but he fails to give the name of either the lake or the island. 
In the "Wonders of Ireland" (Irish Nennius, 217) this island is also the one 
on which no one is permitted to die. A similar legend is alluded to in Reliquiae 
Antiquae, II, 107. Meyer believes that " the Norse version offers a combina- 
tion or confusion of two different Irish stories, one relating to Diarmait's 
churchyard in Inis Clothrann, and the other relating to an island on Loch 
Cre." riu, IV, 9. 

t Glendalough. St. Kevin was the founder of the great abbey of Glendalough. 
The year of his death is variously given as 617 and 618. 


stood a willow of large growth. Kevinus looked up 
among the branches of the willow as if expecting to find 
help and comfort there; then he saw that apples had 
grown upon the willow, just as there would be on an 
apple tree in the proper season. He picked three apples 
and gave them to the youth, and after the lad had eaten 
of these, his illness began to leave him and he was cured 
of the malady. But the willow has ever since continued 
to keep the gift that God gave it on that occasion, for 
every year it bears apples like an apple tree; and since 
that day these have always been called Saint Kevinus' 
apples.* They have been carried into all parts of Ire- 
land in order that those who are ill may partake of them; 
and they seem to have virtue in all human ailments, for 
those who eat of them appear to get relief. But they are 
not sweet in taste and would not be wanted if men did 
not prize them for their healing properties. Many won- 
derful things have come to pass in Ireland which certain > 
highly endowed saints have brought about in an in- / 
stant; and these, too, must seem very marvelous. Thus / 
far, however, we have spoken only of such things as have j 
been achieved through a holiness so great that they re-^ 
main as a testimony to this day and seem as wonderful 
now as on the day when they first occurred. But those 
other matters that men regard as surely genuine and 
speak of as actual facts we may now proceed to point out. 
In that country there is also a place called Themar,t 
which in olden times was apparently a capital or royal 

* For a less detailed account of Saint Kevin and the wonderful willow, see 
Giraldus, Opera, V, 113. Cf. riu, IV, 9. 

t Themar was the ancient royal seat Temhair, now Tara. It seems to be al- 
luded to in Reliquiae Antiquae, II, 105. Cf. Eriu, IV, 10. 


borough; now, however, it is deserted, for no one dares 
to dwell there. It was this event that caused the place 
to be abandoned: all the people in the land believed 
that the king who resided at Themar would always ren- 
der just decisions and never do otherwise; although they 
/^were heathen in other respects and did not have the 
true faith concerning God, they held firmly to their be- 
lief that every case would be decided properly if that 
king passed upon it; and never, they thought, could an 
unrighteous decision come from his throne. On what 
seems to have been the highest point of the borough, 
the king had a handsome and well built castle in which 
was a large and beautiful hall, where he was accustomed 
to sit in judgment. But once it happened that certain 
lawsuits came before the king for decision in which his 
friends and acquaintances were interested on the one 
side, and he was anxious to support their contentions in 
every way. But those who were interested in the suits 
on the other side were hostile toward him, and he was 
their enemy. So the outcome was that the king shaped 
his decision more according to his own wish than to 
justice. But because an unrighteous judgment had come 
whence all people expected just decisions and because of 
this popular belief, the judgment seat was overturned 
and the hall and the castle likewise, even to their very 
foundations. The site, too, was overturned, so that those 
parts of the earth which had formerly pointed down- 
ward were now turned upward; and all the houses and 
halls were turned down into the earth and thus it has 
been ever since. But because such a great miracle hap- 
pened there, no one has since dared to inhabit the place, 


nor has any king ventured to set up his throne there; 
and yet, it is the loveliest place known in all that coun- 
try. It is also thought that if men should attempt to re- 
build the town, not a single day would pass without the 
appearance of some new marvel. 

There is still another wonder in that country which 
must seem quite incredible; nevertheless, those who 
dwell in the land affirm the truth of it and ascribe it to 
the anger of a holy man. It is told that when the holy 
Patricius * preached Christianity in that country, there 
was one clan which opposed him more stubbornly than 
any other people in the land; and these people strove to 
do insult in many ways both to God and to the holy 
man. And when he was preaching the faith to them as 
to others and came to confer with them where they held 
their assemblies, they adopted the plan of howling at 
him like wolves. When he saw that he could do very 
little to promote his mission among these people, he 
grew very wroth and prayed God to send some form of 
affliction upon them to be shared by their posterity as 
a constant reminder of their disobedience. Later these 
clansmen did suffer a fitting and severe though very 
marvelous punishment, for it is told that all the mem- 
bers of that clan are changed into wolves for a period 
and roam through the woods feeding upon the same food 
as wolves; but they are worse than wolves, for in all 
their wiles they have the wit of men, though they are 
as eager to devour men as to destroy other creatures. 
It is reported that to some this affliction comes every 
seventh winter, while in the intervening years they are 

* Saint Patrick. 



men; others suffer it continuously for seven winters all 
told and are never stricken again.* 

There is still another matter, that about the men who 
are called " gelts," | which must seem wonderful. Men 
appear to become gelts in this way: when hostile forces 
meet and are drawn up in two lines and both set up a 
terrifying battle-cry, it happens that timid and youth- 
ful men who have never been in the host before are 
sometimes seized with such fear and terror that they 
lose their wits and run away from the rest into the for- 
est, where they seek food like beasts and shun the meet- 
ing of men like wild animals. It is also told that if these 
people live in the woods for twenty winters in this way, 
feathers will grow upon their bodies as on birds; these 
serve to protect them from frost and cold, but they have 
no large feathers to use in flight as birds have. But so 
great is their fleetness said to be that it is not possible 
for other men or even for greyhounds to come near 
them; for those men can dash up into a tree almost as 
swiftly as apes or squirrels. 

There happened something once in the borough called 
Cloena,} which will also seem marvelous. In this town 

* See the poem on the "Wonders of Ireland" (Reliquiae Antiquae, II, 105), 
where this transformation is alluded to. Stories of men who have become 
wolves are also told in Giraldus, Opera, V, 101, and in the Irish Nennius, 205; 
but these differ widely from the account given above. Stories of werewolves 
and lycanthropy are found in folklore everywhere. 

t Gelt (gjalti) is evidently a Celtic loanword, a form of the Irish geilt, mean- 
ing mad or madman. Cf . the Adventures of Suibhne Geilt, translated by J. G. 
O'Keefe. Suibhne was an Irish king who lost his reason in battle and for years 
afterwards led a wild life in the woods. O'Keefe thinks that the author of the 
King's Mirror must have heard the tale of Suibhne (pp. xxxiv-xxxv). See 
also Eriu, IV, 12. 

J Kuno Meyer identifies Cloena with Clomnacnois. riu, IV, 12. Clonmac- 
nois is in King's county eight miles southwest of Athlone. 


there is a church dedicated to the memory of a saint 
named Kiranus.* One Sunday while the populace was 
at church hearing mass, it befell that an anchor was 
dropped from the sky as if thrown from a ship; for a 
rope was attached to it, and one of the flukes of the 
anchor got caught in the arch above the church door. 
The people all rushed out of the church and marveled 
much as their eyes followed the rope upward. They saw 
a ship with men on board floating before the anchor 
cable; and soon they saw a man leap overboard and dive 
down to the anchor as if to release it. The movements of 
his hands and feet and all his actions appeared like those 
of a man swimming in the water. When he came down 
to the anchor, he tried to loosen it, but the people imme- 
diately rushed up and attempted to seize him. In this 
church where the anchor was caught, there is a bishop's 
throne. The bishop was present when this occurred and 
forbade his people to hold the man; for, said he, it might 
prove fatal as when one is held under water. As soon as 
the man was released, he hurried back up to the ship; 
and when he was up the crew cut the rope and the ship 
sailed away out of sight. But the anchor has remained 
in the church since then as a testimony to this event.f 

* St. Ciaran (Kiranus) of Clonmacnois was the founder of a great monastery 
there. The year of his death is given as 547. 

t In the Irish Nennius (211-213) the following version of this tale appears. 
" Congalach, son of Maelmithig, was at the fair of Teltown on a certain day, 
when he saw a ship (sailing) along in the air. One of the crew cast a dart at a 
salmon. The dart fell down in the presence of the gathering, and a man came 
out of the ship after it. When he seized its end from above, a man from below 
seized it from below. Upon which the man from above said: * I am being 
drowned,' said he. ' Let him go,' said Congalach; and he is allowed to go up, 
and then he goes from them swimming." The translation is by Kuno Meyer: 
riu, IV, 13. Congalach was an Irish king (944-956); Teltown is in county 


I believe we have now mentioned all the features of 
this country that are most worth discussing. But there 
is one other matter that I can tell about, if you wish, for 
the sport or amusement of it. Long time ago a clownish 
fellow lived in that country; he was a Christian, how- 
ever, and his name was Klefsan.* It is told of this one 
that there never was a man who, when he saw Klefsan, 
was not compelled to laugh at his amusing and absurd 
remarks. Even though a man was heavy at heart, he 
could not restrain his laughter, we are told, when he 
heard that man talk. But Klefsan fell ill and died and 
was buried in the churchyard like other men. He lay 
long in the earth until the flesh had decayed from his 
bones, and his bones, too, were largely crumbled. Then 
it came to pass that other corpses were buried in the 
same churchyard, and graves were dug so near the place 
where Klefsan lay that his skull was unearthed, and it 
was whole. They set it up on a high rock in the church- 
yard, where it has remained ever since. But whoever 
comes to that place and sees that skull and looks into 
the opening where the mouth and tongue once were im- 
mediately begins to laugh, even though he were in a 
sorrowful mood before he caught sight of that skull. 
Thus his dead bones make almost as many people laugh 
as he himself did when alive. Now I know of no further 
facts about that country which appear to be suitable 
materials with which to lengthen a talk like this. 

Meath. The legend is alluded to in Reliquiae Antiquae, II, 105, with some dif- 
ference in details. 

* A somewhat different version of this tale is found in the poem on the 
"Wonders of Ireland" (Reliquiae Antiquae, II, 105). See also riu, IV, 14. 





Son. Now since we have discussed everything in Ire- 
land that may be counted marvelous, let us have a talk 
about Iceland and the wonders that are found in the 
Icelandic seas. 

Father. Aside from the whales in the ocean, there 
are, I should say, but few things in the Icelandic waters 
which are worth mentioning or discussing. The whales 
vary much both in kind and size. Those that are called 
Oblubber-cutters and they are the most numerous - 
grow to a length of twenty ells; * a great many of them 
are, however, so small that they measure only ten ells; 
the rest are in between, each having its own size. These 
fishes have neither teeth nor whalebone, nor are they 
dangerous either to ships or men, but are rather disposed 
to avoid the fishermen. Nevertheless, they are con- 
stantly being caught and driven to land by the hun- 
dreds, and where many are caught, they provide much 
food for men.fyThere are also other varieties of small 
whales, such as the porpoise, which is never longer than 
five ells, and the caaing whale, which has a length of 
seven ells only. 

There is another kind of whales called the grampus, 
which grow no longer than twelve ells and have teeth 

* An ell was approximately eighteen inches. 

t Whale fishing is an ancient industry in Norway; it is mentioned as early as 
the ninth century in the writings of Alfred the Great. See Nansen, In North- 
ern Mists, I, 172. 


in proportion to their size very much as dpgs have. 
They are also ravenous for other whales just as dogs 
are for other beasts. They gather in flocks and attack 
large whales, and, when a large one is caught alone, 
they worry and bite it till it succumbs. It is likely, how- 
ever, that this one, while defending itself with mighty 
blows, kills a large number of them before it perishes. 

There are two other varieties, the beaked whale and 
the "hog whale, " the largest of which are not more than 
twenty-five ells in length. These are not fit to be eaten, 
for the fat that is drawn from them cannot be digested 
either by man or by any beast that may partake of it. 
For it runs through them and even through wood; and 
after it has stood a while, scarcely any vessel can con- 
tain it, even if made of horn. There are certain other 
types which are worth a passing mention only, namely 
the " raven whale " and the white whale.* The white 
whales are so named because of their show white color, 
while most other varieties are black, except that some 
of them have spots, such as the " shield whale," the 
" spear whale," and the baleen whale. All these kinds 
that I have just mentioned may be freely eaten and 
many other kinds too. 

There is another sort of whales called the " fish 
driver," f which is perhaps the most useful of all to 

* Probably the beluga, also called white whale. The other varieties named in 
this paragraph, excepting the beaked whale and the baleen whale seem not 
to have been identified with any known types of whales. It has been sug- 
gested that some of them may have been sharks. See Nansen, In Northern 
Mists, II, 243. 

t The editor of the Sor5 edition identifies this with the nor-caper (Balcena gla- 
cialis), though he thinks it possible that the fin-fish (Bcdcenoptera laticeps) may 
be meant (p. 125). 


men; for it drives the herring and all other kinds of 
fish in toward the land from the ocean outside, as if 
(Appointed and sent by the Lord for this purposed/This j~\ 
is its duty and office as long as the fishermen keep the \ 
peace on the fishing grounds. Its nature is also peculiar \ 
in this, that it seemingly knows how to spare both ships 
and men. Butfwhen the fishermen fall to quarreling and ~j 
fighting, so that blood is spilt, this whale seems able to 
perceive it; for it moves in between the land and the 
fish and chases the shoals back into the ocean, just as 
it earlier had driven them in toward the men.jThese 
whales are not more than thirty ells in length, or forty 
at the very largest. They would provide good food, if 
men were allowed to hunt them, but no one is permitted 
to catch or harm them, since they are of such great and 
constant service to men. 

Another kind is called the sperm whale. These are 
toothed whales, though the teeth are barely large 
enough to be carved into fair-sized knife handles or 
chess men. They are neither fierce nor savage, but rather 
of a gentle nature, and so far as possible they avoid the 
fishermen. In size they are about like those that I men- 
tioned last. Their teeth are so numerous that more than 
seventy can be found in the head of a single whale of 
this sort. 

Still another species is called the right whale; * this 
has no fins along the spine and is about as large as 
the sort that we mentioned last. Sea-faring men fear 
it very much, for it is by nature disposed to sport with 

* Balcena mysticetus; also called bowhead or Greenland whale. 


There is another kind called the Greenland shark,* 
which is peculiar in this, that it has caul and fat in the 
abdomen like cattle. The largest of these whales grow 
to a length of thirty ells at most. 

There are certain varieties that are fierce and savage 
toward men and are constantly seeking to destroy them 
at every chance. One of these is called the " horse 
whale," and another the " red comb." f They are very 
voracious and malicious and never grow tired of slaying 
men. They roam about in all the seas looking for ships, 
and when they find one they leap up, for in that way 
they are able to sink and destroy it the more quickly. 
CThese fishes are unfit for human food; being the natural 
_ enemies of mankind, they are, in fact, loathsome]] The 
~* largest of this type never grow more than thirty or forty 

ells in length. 

There is still another sort called the narwhal, which 
may not be eaten for fear of disease, for men fall ill and 
die if they eat of it. This whale is not large in size; it 
never grows longer than twenty ells. It is not at all savage 
but rather tries to avoid fishermen. It has teeth in its 
head, all small but one which projects from the front of 
the upper jaw. This tooth is handsome, well formed, and 
straight as an onion stem. It may grow to a length of 
seven ells and is as even and smooth as if shaped with 
a tool. It projects straight forward from the head when 
the whale is traveling; but sharp and straight though it 
is, it is of no service as a defensive weapon; for the whale 

* It is possible that the basking sharks are meant rather than the Greenland 
sharks; they are larger than the Greenland sharks, but do not seem to be 
common in the Arctic waters, 
t The " horse whale " and the " red comb " have not been identified. 


is so fond and careful of its tusk that it allows nothing 
to come near it. I know of no other varieties of whales 
that are unfit for human food, only these five that I 
have now enumerated: the two that I mentioned first 
were the beaked whale and the " hog whale; " the three 
mentioned later were the " horse whale," the " red 
comb," and the narwhal. 

There are certain varieties of even greater size which 
I have not yet described; and all those that I shall now 
discuss may be eaten by men. Some of them are danger- 
ous for men to meet, while others are gentle and peace- 
able. One of these is called humpback; this fish is large 
and very dangerous to ships. It has a habit of striking 
at the vessel with its fins and of lying and floating just 
in front of the prow where sailors travel. Though the 
ship turn aside, the whale will continue to keep in front, 
so there is no choice but to sail upon it; but if a ship does 
sail upon it, the whale will throw the vessel and destroy 
all on board. The largest of these fishes grow to a length 
of seventy or eighty ells; they are good to eat. 

Then there is that kind which is called the Greenland 
whale.* This fish grows to a length of eighty or even 
ninety ells and is as large around as it is long; for a 
rope that is stretched the length of one will just reach 
around it where it is bulkiest. Its head is so large that it 
comprises fully a third of the entire bulk. This fish is 
very cleanly in choice of food; for people say that it 
subsists wholly on mist and rain and whatever falls into 
the sea from the air above. When one is caught and its 

* This is another name for the right whale described above; the author's 
classification in this case must have been based on size only. 




entrails are examined, nothing is found in its abdomen 
like what is found in other fishes that take food, for the 
abdomen is empty and clean. It cannot readily open 
and close its mouth, for the whalebone which grows in 
it will rise * and stand upright in the mouth when it is 
opened wide; and consequently whales of this type often 
perish because of their inability to close the mouth. 
This whale rarely gives trouble to ships. It has no teeth 
and/is fat and good to eat.J 

Then there is a kind of whale called the rorqual, and 
this fish is the best of all for food. It is of a peaceful dis- 
position and does not bother ships, though it may swim 
very close to them. This fish is of great size and length; 
it is reported that the largest thus far caught have meas- 
ured thirteen times ten ells, that is, one hundred and 
thirty ells by the ten-count. Because of its quiet and 
peaceful behavior it often falls a prey to whale fishers. 
/It is better for eating and smells better than any of the 
other fishes that we have talked about, though it is said 
to be very fat; it has no teeth. It has been asserted, too, 
that if one can get some of the sperm of this whale and 
be perfectly sure that it came from this sort and no 
other, it will be found a most effective remedy for eye 
troubles, leprosy, ague, headache, and for every other 
ill that afflicts mankind. Sperm from other whales also 
makes good medicine v , though not so good as this sort.J 
And now I have enumerated nearly all the varieties of 
whales that are hunted by men. 

* The author seems to believe that the whalebone rises from the lower jaw or 
the floor of the mouth; as a matter of fact it is fastened to the palate. 


There is a fish not yet mentioned which it is scarcely 
advisable to speak about on account of its size, which to 
most men will seem incredible. There are, moreover, 
but very few who can tell anything definite about it, 
inasmuch as it is rarely seen by men; for it almost never 
approaches the shore or appears where fishermen can 
see it, and I doubt that this sort of fish is very plentiful 
in the sea. In our language it is usually called the "kra- 
ken." I can say nothing definite as to its length in ells, 
for on those occasions when men have seen it, it has 
appeared more like an island than a fish. Nor have I 
heard that one has ever been caught or found dead. It 
seems likely that there are but two in all the ocean and 
that these beget no offspring, for I believe it is always 
the same ones that appear. Nor would it be well for 
other fishes if they were as numerous as the other whales, 
seeing that they are so immense and need so much food. 
It is said, that when these fishes want something to eat, 
they are in the habit of giving forth a violent belch, 
which brings up so much food that all sorts of fish in the 
neighborhood, both large and small, will rush up in the 
hope of getting nourishment and good fare. Meanwhile 
the monster keeps it mouth open, and inasmuch as its 
opening is about as wide as a sound or fjord, the fishes 
cannot help crowding in in great numbers. But as soon as 
its mouth and belly are full, the monster closes its mouth 
and thus catches and shuts in all the fishes that just 
previously had rushed in eagerly to seek food.* 

* The kraken myth probably came to the North with the legend of St. Bren- 
dan, an Irish abbot, who was believed to have made a journey into the At- 


Now we have mentioned and described most of those 
things in the Icelandic waters that would be counted 
wonderful, and among them a few that are more plenti- 
ful in other seas than in those which we have just dis- 



Son. Now since we have named most of the species of 
fish that roam about in the ocean, those that are worth 
mentioning or discussing, I should like to hear about 
those features of the land itself that are most worthy of 
mention. What do you think of the extraordinary fire 
which rages constantly in that country ? Does it rise 
out of some natural peculiarity of the land, or can it be 
that it has its origin in the spirit world ? And what do 
you think about those terrifying earthquakes that can 
occur there, or those marvelous lakes, or the ice which 
covers all the higher levels ? 

Father. As to the ice that is found in Iceland, I am 
inclined to believe that it is a penalty which th land 
suffers for lying so close to Greenland; for it is to be 
expected that severe cold would come thence, since 
Greenland is ice-clad beyond all other lands. Now since 
Iceland gets so much cold from that side and receives 
but little heat from the sun, it necessarily has an over- 
abundance of ice on the mountain ridges. But concern- 
ing the extraordinary fires which burn there, I scarcely 
know what to say, for they possess a strange nature. I 

lantic about the middle of the sixth century. The oldest extant form of the 
legend, the Navigatio Brendani, dates from the eleventh century. For earlier 
versions of the myth see Nansen, In Northern Mists, II, 234. 


have heard that in Sicily there is an immense fire of un- 
usual power which consumes both earth and wood. I 
have also heard that Saint Gregory has stated in his 
Dialogues * that there are places of torment f in the 
fires of Sicily. But men are much more inclined to be- 
lieve that there must be such places of torment in those 
fires in Iceland. For the fires in Sicily feed on living 
things, as they consume both earth and wood. Trees x 
live; they grow and put forth green leaves; but they 
dry up and wither when they begin to die; therefore, 
since they die when they wither, they must be called ; , *, 
living while they are green. The earth, too, must be / ! 
called living, inasmuch as it sometimes yields much / 
fruitage; and as soon as one crop is fallen into decay, / 
it gives new growth. All living creatures, too, are formea 
of earth, and therefore it surely must be called living. 
Both these things, earth and wood, the fires of Sicily 
can burn and consume as nourishment. The fire of Ice- 
land, however, will burn neither earth nor wood, though 
these be cast upon it; but it feeds upon stone and hard 
rock and draws vigor from these as other fires do from 
dry wood. And never is rock or stone so hard but that 
this fire will melt it like wax and then burn it like fat 
oil. But when a tree is cast upon the fire, it will not burn 
but be scorched only. Now since this fire feeds on dead 
things only and rejects everything that other fires de- 
vour, it must surely be said that it is a dead fire; and it 

* Dialogorum Libri IV. Pope Gregory died in 604. The Icelandic version of 
Gregory's Dialogues is published in Heilagra Manna Sogur, I. 
t It is difficult to determine whether the author uses " places of torment " as 
a term for hell or for purgatory; it seems probable, however, that in this case 
hell is meant. 


seems most likely that it is the fire of hell, for in hell all 
things are dead. 

I am also disposed to believe that certain bodies of 
water in Iceland must be of the same dead nature as the 
fire that we have described. For there are springs which 
boil furiously all the time both winter and summer. At 
times the boiling is so violent that the heated water is 
thrown high into the air. But whatever is laid near the 
spring at the time of spouting, whether it be cloth or 
wood or anything else that the water may touch when 
it falls down again, will turn to stone. This seems to 
lead to the conclusion that this water must be dead, 
seeing that it gives a dead character to whatever it 
sprinkles and moistens; for the nature of stone is dead. 
But if the fire should not be dead but have its origin in 
some peculiarity of the country, the most reasonable 
theory as to the formation of the land seems to be that 
there must be many veins, empty passages, and wide 
cavities in its foundations. At times it may happen that 
these passages and cavities will be so completely packed 
with air, either by the winds or by the power of the roar- 
ing breakers, that the pressure of the blast cannot be 
confined, and this may be the origin of those great earth- 
quakes that occur in that country.* Now if this should 
seem a reasonable or plausible explanation, it may be 
that the great and powerful activity of the air within 
the foundations of the earth also causes those great fires 
to be lit and to appear, which burst forth in various 
parts of the land.f 

* For the history of this theory see above, pp. 17-18. 
t The number of volcanoes hi Iceland is variously given, but the more reli- 
able authorities give 107. 


Now it must not be regarded as settled that the facts 
are as we have just said; we have merely tried to bring 
together and compare various opinions in order to de- 
termine what seems most reasonable. For we see that 
all fire originates in force. If a hard stone is stricken 
against hard iron, fire comes out of the iron and out of 
the energy of the stroke when they clash. You can also 
rub pieces of wood against each other in such a way that 
their antagonism will produce fire. It also happens fre- 
quently that two winds rising at the same time will go 
against each other; and when they meet in the air, heavy 
blows fall, and these blows give forth a great fire which 
spreads widely over the sky.* At times it also happens 
that this fire is driven to the earth where it causes much 
damage by burning houses and sometimes forests and 
ships at sea. But all the fires that I have now named, 
whether they come from iron, or winds colliding in the 
air, or any of those mighty forces which can produce 
fire, will consume trees, forests, and earth: while the fire 
which we discussed earlier and which appears in Iceland 
refuses all these things, as I have already shown. Now 
these facts lead to this conclusion as to its nature, that 
it is more likely to have arisen from dead things or from 
like sources, than those other fires that we have now 
discussed. And in case it is as we have imagined, it is 
likely that the great earthquakes of that country origi- 
nate in the power of those mighty fires that well through 
the bowels of the land. 

* The common belief of medieval scientists was that lightning was caused by 
the collision of clouds. 



C* 'V fc 

Son. Hi should like very much, with your permission, 

l(Jlf . ^_to ask further about this firejYou stated earlier in your 
remarks that Gregory has written in his Dialogues that 
there are places of torment in Sicily; but to me it seems 
more likely that those places are in Iceland. You also 
said that so vast are the fires in the bowels of the land 
that earthquakes arise out of their violent movements; 
but if the fires are so destructive to stone and rock that 
it melts them like wax and feeds wholly upon them, I 
should imagine that it would soon consume all the foun- 
dations beneath the land and all the mountains as well. 
Though you may think I am asking childish questions 
about these things, still I entreat you to give indulgent 
replies; for, of course, one can ask many questions that 
reveal youth rather than wisdom. 

Father. I have no doubt that there are places of tor- 
ment in Iceland even in places where there is no burn- 
ing; for in that country the power of frost and ice is as 
boundless as that of fire. There are those springs of boil- 
ing water which we have mentioned earlier. There are 
also ice-cold streams which flow out of the glaciers with 
such violence that the earth and the neighboring moun- 
tains tremble; for when water flows with such a swift 
and furious current, mountains will shake because of its 
vast mass and overpowering strength. And no men can 
go out upon those river banks to view them unless they 
bring long ropes to be tied around those who wish to 
explore, while farther away others sit holding fast the 


rope, so that they may be ready and able to pull them 
back if the turbulence of the current should make them 
dizzy. Now it seems evident to me that wherever such 
a great violence appears and in such terrible forms, there 
surely must be places of torment. And God has made 
such great and terrifying things manifest upon earth to 
man, not only that men may be the more vigilant, and 
may reflect that these tortures are indeed heavy to 
think upon, although after they depart this life they 
will have to suffer those that they see while still on 
earth; but even more to make them reflect that greater 
still are the things invisible, which they are not per- 
mitted to see. But these things are a testimony, that it 
is not untrue what we have been told, that those men 
who will not beware of evil deeds and unrighteousness, 
while they live on earth, may expect to suffer torment 
when they leave this world. For many a simple-minded 
man might think that all this was mere deception un- 
worthy of notice and told merely to terrify, if there were 
no such evidence as what we have now pointed out. But 
now no one can deny what he sees before his own eyes, 
since we hear exactly the same things about the tor- 
tures of hell as those which one can see on the island 
called Iceland: for there are vast and boundless fire, 
overpowering frost and glaciers, boiling springs, and 
violent ice-cold streams.* 

But what you suggested just now, namely that this 
fire is likely to melt and consume the mountains and the 

* The belief that hell was a region of extreme cold as well as of heat was com- 
mon in the middle ages. The author of the King's Mirror probably derived 
his ideas of hell in part from the Old Norse version of the Elucidarium of 
Honorius of Autun. See Annaler for nordisk Oldkyndighed, 1857, 292. 


foundations of the earth, so that the entire land will be 

destroyed, that cannot come to pass before the time 

that God has appointed. For neither this created force 

, nor any other governs itself but all things are compelled 

" " * <^ to move as God's providence has ordained from the be- 

CginningJAnd you will understand this better if I take 

up certain events that can be used to illustrate these 


When the lord of death wished to tempt Job, he had 
no power to do so before he had asked permission; and 
when this had been granted, he did not have power to 
carry out his will farther than the permission extended; 
for he would gladly have slain Job at once, if that had 
been allowed. He was allowed to take away Job's wealth 
and he took it all at the first stroke; but he was not per- 
mitted to destroy the man himself. As he yearned for 
permission to tempt him even more severely than he 
had already, he was suffered to carry out his will upon 
Job's body and upon all the possessions that belonged 
to him. But he was not permitted to separate soul from 
body, before the hour should come that He had fixed, 
Who has all power over life and destiny. But as soon as 
Satan had received permission to carry out his desires 
upon Job, he showed immediately how eager he was to 
act in such matters as were within his power. For it is 
written that Satan took away from Job his abundant 
wealth and his seven sons and three daughters, and 
smote his body with terrible leprosy from the crown to 
the sole of his feet. 

/** Now the meaning of this (which ought to be noted 
J carefully in our minds) is that the Lord of life has power 


over all things and is kindly disposed; while the lord of 
death has an evil will, but has power over nothing, ex- 
cept as he receives authority beforehand from Him 
Who rules over all, Who is Almighty GodjThe devil 
can, therefore, injure no one to such an extent that he 
is consumed either by the fires of death which he has 
kindled and continues to maintain by means of dread- 
ful earthquakes, or by such other fiendish enmity or 
malignity as he delights in. For he is allowed to do 
nothing more than the task at hand, as is evident from 
what I have just related about the case of Job. And if 
it should be thought necessary to cite several examples 
in one speech, it will be found that instances of this sort 
are both plentiful and convincing. 



Son. It seems evident that the more examples I can 
hear you cite of the sort that leads to knowledge, the 
better it will be; and from the instance that you have 
just given I can see clearly that if Satan was not able to 
carry out his will against one man, except as far as he 
was permitted, he will surely have even less power to 
carry out his desires against many thousands, either by 
his own effort or through a servant, except as far as per- 
mission has been given. Now if we are to go on with this 
entertaining conversation, as we have been doing, I 
should like to know, whether there are any other things 
about this island which you think are worth discussing 
or which seem remarkable. 


Father. We have already mentioned nearly every- 
thing in Iceland that is really worth noticing; but there 
are a few other things which I may discuss, if you wish. 
In that country there is an abundance of the ore that 
iron is made of: it is called " swamp-ore " in the speech 
of the people there, and the same term is used among 
ourselves. It has happened at times that great deposits 
of this ore have been found, and men have prepared to 
go thither the next day to smelt it and make iron of it, 
only to find it gone, and none can tell what becomes of 
it. This is called the " ore-marvel " in that country. 
There is still another marvel that men wonder at. It is 
reported that in Iceland there are springs which men call 
\y^ **jf ale-springs. f They are so called because the water that 

^ e * ) runs from them smells more like ale than water; and 
i fas </ 

I when one drinks of it, it does not fill as other water does, 
- but is easily digested and goes into the system like ale.J 
There are several springs in that country that are called 
ale-springs; but one is the best and most famous of all; 
this one is found in the valley called Hiterdale.* It is 
told about this spring, or the water flowing from it, that 
it tastes exactly like ale and is very abundant. It is also 
said that if drunk to excess, it goes into one's head. If a 
house is built over the spring it will turn aside from the 
building and break forth somewhere outside. It is fur- 
ther held that people may drink as much as they like 
at the spring; but if they carry the water awayit will 
soon lose its virtuejand is then no better than other 

* Mineral springs yielding carbonated waters are found in Iceland, though 
they are not numerous. The Hiterdale spring is probably mythical. See Herr- 
mann, Island, I, 66. 


water, or not so good. Now we have discussed many 
and even trifling things, because in that country they 
are thought marvelous; and I cannot recall anything 
else in Iceland that is worth mentioning. 



Son. Now that we have entered upon this interesting 
conversation and have spoken of the marvels that are 
found in Iceland and the Icelandic seas, let us close it 
by calling to mind what is worth noting in the waters of 
Greenland or in the land itself and the wonders that are 
to be seen there. 

Father. It is reported that the waters about Green- 
land are infested with monsters, though I do not believe 
that they have been seen very frequently. Still, people 
have stories to tell about them, so men must have seen 
or caught sight of them. It is reported that the monster 
called merman is found in the seas of Greenland. This 
monster is tall and of great size and rises straight out of 
the water. It appears to have shoulders, neck and head, 
eyes and mouth, and nose and chin like those of a hu- 
man being; but above the eyes and the eyebrows it looks 
more like a man with a peaked helmet on his head. It 
has shoulders like a man's but no hands. Its body ap- 
parently grows narrower from the shoulders down, so 
that the lower down it has been observed, the more 
slender it has seemed to be. But no one has ever seen 
how the lower end is shaped, whether it terminates in a 
fin like a fish or is pointed like a pole. The form of this 


prodigy has, therefore, looked much like an icicle. No 
one has ever observed it closely enough to determine 
whether its body has scales like a fish or skin like a man. 
Whenever the monster has shown itself, men have al- 
ways been sure that a storm would follow. They have 
also noted how it has turned when about to plunge into 
the waves and in what direction it has fallen; if it has 
turned toward the ship and has plunged in that direc- 
tion, the sailors have felt sure that lives would be lost 
on that ship; but whenever it has turned away from 
the vessel and has plunged in that direction, they have 
felt confident that their lives would be spared, even 
though they should encounter rough waters and severe 

Another prodigy called mermaid * has also been seen 
there. This appears to have the form of a woman from 
the waist upward, for it has large nipples on its breast 
like a woman, long hands and heavy hair, and its neck 
and head are formed in every respect like those of a 
human being. The monster is said to have large hands 
and its fingers are not parted but bound together by a 
web like that which joins the toes of water fowls. Below 
the waist line it has the shape of a fish with scales and 

* The belief that mermaids lived in the Arctic waters was one that was long 
held by European navigators. Henry Hudson reports that on his voyage into 
the Arctic in 1608 (June 15) some of his men saw a mermaid. " This morning 
one of our companie looking over boord saw a mermaid, and calling up some 
of the companie to see her, one more came up and by that tune shee was come 
close to the ships side, looking earnestly on the men: a little after a sea came 
and overturned her: from the navill upward her backe and breasts were like 
a womans, as they say that saw her; her body as big as one of us; her 
skin very white, and long haire hanging downe behind of colour blacke: 
in her going downe they saw her tayle, which was like the tayle of a porposse 
and speckled like a macrell." Asher, Henry Hudson, 28. 


tail and fins. It is said to have this in common with the 
one mentioned before, that it rarely appears except be- 
fore violent storms. Its behavior is often somewhat like 
this: it will plunge into the waves and will always re- 
appear with fish in its hands; if it then turns toward the 
ship, playing with the fishes or throwing them at the 
ship, the men have fears that they will suffer great loss 
of life. The monster is described as having a large and 
terrifying face, a sloping forehead and wide brows, a 
large mouth and wrinkled cheeks. But if it eats the 
fishes or throws them into the sea away from the ship, 
the crews have good hopes that their lives will be spared, 
even though they should meet severe storms. 

Now there is still another marvel in the seas of Green- 
land, the facts of which I do not know precisely. It is 
called " sea hedges," * and it has the appearance as if 
all the waves and tempests of the ocean have been col- 
lected into three heaps, out of which three billows are 
formed. These hedge in the entire sea, so that no open- 
ing can be seen anywhere; they are higher than lofty 
mountains and resemble steep, overhanging cliffs. In a 
few cases only have the men been known to escape who 
were upon the seas when such a thing occurred. But the 
stories of these happenings must have arisen from the 
fact that God has always preserved some of those who 
have been placed in these perils, and their accounts have 
afterwards spread abroad, passing from man to man. It 

* The Danish scientist I. Japetus S. Steenstrup has shown in his paper " Hvad 
er Kongespeilets Havgjerdinger ? " that this phenomenon is produced by sea 
quakes. The three huge waves did not form a triangle as the author's account 
would seem to imply; they were three successive waves rolling in toward the 
shore. Steenstrup argues chiefly from the behavior of sea quakes in modern 
times. Aarboger for nor disk Oldkyndighed og Historic, 1871. 


may be that the tales are told as the first ones related 
them, or the stories may have grown larger or shrunk 
somewhat. Consequently, we have to speak cautiously 
about this matter, for of late we have met but very few 
who have escaped this peril and are able to give us tid- 
ings about it. 

In that same ocean there are many other marvels, 
though they cannot be reckoned among the prodigies. 
As soon as one has passed over the deepest part of the 
ocean, he will encounter such masses of ice in the sea, 
that I know no equal of it anywhere else in all the earth. 
Sometimes these ice fields are as flat as if they were 
frozen on the sea itself. They are about four or five ells 
thick and extend so far out from the land that it may 
mean a journey of four days or more to travel across 
them. There is more ice to the northeast and north of 
the land than to the south, southwest, and west; con- 
sequently, whoever wishes to make the land should sail 
around it to the southwest and west, till he has come 
past all those places where ice may be looked for, and 
approach the land on that side.* It has frequently hap- 
pened that men have sought to make the land too soon 
and, as a result, have been caught in the ice floes. Some 
of those who have been caught have perished; but others 
have got out again, and we have met some of these and 
have heard their accounts and tales. But all those who 

* The settled portion of Greenland is in the southern part on the west coast. 
The author wishes to say that a ship sailing from Norway to Greenland must 
round Cape Farewell and proceed some distance up the west coast before try- 
ing to make land. For a discussion of the conditions of settlement in Green- 
land and the navigation of the waters about Greenland, see Hovgaard, The 
Voyages of the Norsemen to America, c. ii; Nansen, In Northern Mists, cc. vii, 


have been caught in these ice drifts have adopted the 
same plan: they have taken their small boats and have 
dragged them up on the ice with them, and in this way 
have sought to reach land; but the ship and everything 
else of value had to be abandoned and was lost. Some 
have had to spend four days or five upon the ice before 
reaching land, and some even longer. 

These ice floes have peculiar habits. Sometimes they 
lie as quiet as can be, though cut apart by creeks or 
large fjords; at other times they travel with a speed so 
swift and violent that a ship with a fair wind behind is 
not more speedy; and when once in motion, they travel 
as often against the wind as with it. There is also ice of 
a different shape which the Greenlanders call icebergs. 
In appearance these resemble high mountains rising out 
of the sea; they never mingle with other ice but stand 
by themselves. 

In those waters there are also many of those species 
of whales which we have already described. It is claimed 
that there are all sorts of seals, too, in those seas, and 
that they have a habit of following the ice, as if abun- 
dant food would never be wanting there. These are the 
species of seals that are found there. One is called the 
" corse seal; " its length is never more than four ells. 
There is another sort called the " erken-seal," * which 
grows to a length of five ells or six at the very longest. 
Then there is a third kind which is called the " flett 
seal," which grows to about the same length as those 
mentioned above. There is still a fourth kind, called the 

* This is called haverkn in modern Norse and seems to be the same as the 
grey seal: Halichoerus gryphus. See Nansen, In Northern Mists, II, 155. 


bearded seal, which occasionally grows to a length of 
six ells or even seven. In addition there are various 
smaller species, one of which is called the saddleback; * 
it has this name because it does not swim on the belly 
like other seals but on the back or side; its length is 
never more than four ells. There remains the smallest 
kind, which is called the " short seal " and is not more 
than two ells in length. It has a peculiar nature; for it is 
reported that these seals can pass under flat ice masses 
four or even five ells thick and can blow up through 
them; consequently they can have large openings where- 
ever they want them. 

There still remains another species which the Green- 
landers count among the whales, but which, it seems to 
me, ought rather to be classed with the seals. f These are 
called walrus and grow to a length of fourteen ells or 
fifteen at the very highest. In shape this fish resembles 
the seal both as to hair, head, skin, and the webbed feet 
behind; it also has the swimming feet in front like the 
seal. Its flesh like that of other seals must not be eaten 
on fast days. Its appearance is distinguished from that 
of other seals in that it has, in addition to the other small 
teeth, two large and long tusks, which are placed in the 
front part of the upper jaw and sometimes grow to a 
s length of nearly an ell and a half, [jts hide is thick and 
f e < J, good to make ropes ofj^it can be cut into leather strips 
of such strength that sixty or more men may pull at one 
rope without breaking it. The seals that we have just 
discussed are called fish because they find their food 

* Also called the harp seal: Phoca Gramlandica. 

t This observation accords with modern scientific classification. 


in the sea and subsist upon other fishes. They may be 
freely eaten, though not like the whales, for whale flesh 
may be eaten on fast days like other fish food, while these 
fishes may be eaten only on the days when flesh food is 
allowed. Now I know of nothing else in the waters of 
Greenland which seems worth mentioning or reporting, 
only those things that we have just discussed. 



Son. These things must seem wonderful to all who 
may hear of them, both what is told about the fishes 
and that about the monsters which are said to exist in 
those waters. Now I understand that this ocean must 
be more tempestuous than all other seas; and therefore 
I think it strange that it is covered with ice both in win- 
ter and in summer, more than all other seas are. I am 
also curious to know why men should be so eager to fare 
thither, where there are such great perils to beware of, 
and what one can look for in that country which can be 
turned to use or pleasure. With your permission I also 
wish to ask what the people who inhabit those lands live 
upon; what the character of the country is, whether it 
is ice-clad like the ocean or free from ice even though the 
sea be frozen; and whether corn grows in that country 
as in other lands. I should also like to know whether you 
regard it as mainland or as an island, and whether there 
are any beasts or such other things in that country as 
there are in other lands. 



Father. The answer to your query as to what people 
go to seek in that country and why they fare thither 
through such great perils is to be sought iiman's three- 
fold nature. One motive is fame and rivalry, for it is in 
the nature of man to seek places where great dangers 
may be met, and thus to win fame. A second motive is 
curiosity, for it is also in man's nature to wish to see 
and experience the things that he has heard about, and 
thus to learn whether the facts are as told or not. The 
third is desire for gain; for men seek wealth wherever 
they have heard that gain is to be gotten, though, on 
the other hand, there may be great dangers toojBut 
in Greenland it is this way, as you probably know, that 
whatever comes from other lands is high in price, for 
this land lies so distant from other countries that men 
seldom visit it. And everything that is needed to im- 
- prove the land must be purchased abroad,[both iron and 
all the timber used in building houses Jin return for their 

/wares the merchants bring back the /folio wing products: 
buckskin, or hides, sealskins, and rope of the kind that 
\ we talked about earlier which is called " leather rope " 
/ and is cut from the fish called walrus, and also the teeth 
- of the walrus. J 

As to {whether any sort of grain can grow there, my 
belief is that the country draws but little profit from 
that source.] And yet there are men among those who 
are counted the wealthiest and most prominent who 
"** ^5/-?" ave tr i e( l to sow grain as an experiment; but(the great 
;^ // ma J r ity in that country do not know what bread is, 
having never seen it.]You have also asked about the ex- 
tent of the land and whether it is mainland or an island; 


but I believe that few know the size of the land, though 
all believe that it is continental and connected with some 
mainland, inasmuch as it evidently contains a number 
of such animals as are known to live on the mainland 
but rarely on islands. Hares and wolves are very plenti- 
ful and there are multitudes of reindeer. It seems to be 
generally held, however, that these animals do not in- 
habit islands, except where men have brought them 
in; and everybody seems to feel sure that no one has 
brought them to Greenland, but that they must have 
run thither from other mainlands. There are bears, too, 
in that region; they are white, and people think they 
are native to the country, for they differ very much in 
their habits from the black bears that roam the forests. 
These kill horses, cattle, and other beasts to feed upon; 
but the white bear of Greenland wanders most of the 
time about on the ice in the sea, hunting seals and 
whales and feeding upon them. It is also as skillful a 
swimmer as any seal or whale. 

In reply to your question whether the land thaws out 
or remains icebound like the sea, I can state definitely 
that only a small part of the land thaws out, while all 
the rest remains under the ice. But nobody knows 
whether the land is large or small, because all the moun- 
tain ranges and all the valleys are covered with ice, and 
no opening has been found anywhere. But it is quite 
evident that there are such openings, either along the 
shore or in the valleys that lie between the mountains, 
through which beasts can find a way; for they could not 
run thither from other lands, unless they should find 
open roads through the ice and the soil thawed out. 


Men have often tried to go up into the country and 
climb the highest mountains in various places to look 
about and learn whether any land could be found that 
was free from ice and habitable. But nowhere have they 
found such a place, except what is now occupied, which 
is a little strip along the water's edge. 

There is much marble in those parts that are inhab- 
ited; it is variously colored, both red and blue and 
r streaked with green. [There are also many large hawks in 
the land, which in other countries would be counted very 
C precious/) white falcons, and they are more numerous 
there than in any other country; but the natives do not 
know how to make any use of them.* 



Son. You stated earlier in your talk that no grain 
grows in that country; therefore I now want to ask 
you what the people who inhabit the land live on, how 
large the population is, what sort of food they have, and 
whether they have accepted Christianity. 

Father. The people in that country are few, for only 
a small part is sufficiently free from ice to be habitable; 
but the people are all Christians and have churches and 
priests. If the land lay near to some other country it 
might be reckoned a third of a bishopric; but the Green- 

* In the thirteenth century, the century of the King's Mirror, falconry was a 
favorite sport of the European nobility and there seems to have been some 
demand for Norwegian hawks. In the Close Rolls of the reign of Henry III 
there are allusions to gifts of hawks sent by the king of Norway to the Eng- 
lish king. See above p. 29. 


landers now have their own bishop,* as no other ar- 
rangement is possible on account of the great distance 
from other people. You ask what the inhabitants live 
on in that country since they sow no grain; but men 
can live on other food than bread, f It is reported that 
the pasturage is good and that there are large and fine 
farms in Greenland. [The farmers raise cattle and sheep ~7 
in large numbers and make butter and cheese in great / i^ 
quantities. The people subsist chiefly on these foods and y x- 
on beef; but they also eat the flesh of various kinds of / 
game, such as reindeer, whales, seals, and bears. That 1 
is what men live on in that country. 3 



Son. I believe I still have some questions to ask about 
this country. How do you account for the fact that 
Greenland and the ocean that lies about it have greater 
masses of ice than any other land or sea ? For I gather 
from what you have said that the ocean is deep and 
also very salt and always in commotion; and I did not 
suppose that it could freeze readily there, since, (where O 
the ocean is deep and the water is salt, ice forms with ( ^^^ 
difficulty, especially when the sea is in turmoil and the \ 1 
waves roll highj But now I hear about these waters that -^ 
we have just talked about and likewise about the land, 

* The diocese of Gardar in Greenland was established about 1110. For an 
account of the Norwegian colony in Greenland see Gjerset, History of the Nor- 
wegian People, I, 197-204. 

t Cf. the papal letter of Alexander VI, written in 1492. Olson and Bourne, 
The Northmen, Columbus, and Cabot, 73-74. 


that there is never an interval when the land or the sea 
is not covered with ice, except that occasionally an open- 
ing appears here and there in the ice field; but this is 
due to the stirring of the sea and not to the heat. 

Now since the land is constantly frozen over in both 
winter and summer, I wish to ask you to tell me exactly 
how the climate is in Greenland: whether there is any 
warmth or fair sunshine as in other lands, or if the 
weather is always unpleasant, and whether that is what 
causes the excessive ice and frost. I should like to have 
you clear this matter up for me along with those things 
that I asked about earlier in our conversation, and what 
that thing is which the Greenlanders call the northern 
lights.* All these questions I should like to have you 
answer, and also this, in what part of the world you be- 
lieve that country to be located: whether it lies some- 
where on the edge of the world or about some large bend 
in the ocean like other extensive lands, seeing that you 
think it is joined to other mainlands. 

Father. The matters about which you have now in- 
quired I cannot wholly clear up for you, inasmuch as I 
have not yet found any one who has knowledge of the 
entire " home-circle " f and its dimensions and who has 
explored the whole earth on all its sides, or the nature of 
the lands and the landmarks located there. If I had ever 

* We should infer from the form of this question and from the later discussion 
of the northern lights that this phenomenon was not prominent in Norway 
in the thirteenth century. There seem to be periods when these " lights " are 
less in evidence than at other times. But it should also be noted that the au- 
thor discusses whales in connection with Greenland and Iceland only, though 
it is extremely likely that whales were not unknown on the shores of Norway. 
t The " home-circle " (kringla heimsins) was the Old Norse translation for 
the Latin orbis terrae, orb of the earth. 



met such a man, one who had seen and examined these 
things, I should have been able to give you full informa- 
tion about them. But I can at least tell you what those 
men have conjectured who have formed the most rea-y 
sonable opinions. 

The men who have written best concerning the nature j y 

of the earth, following the guidance of Isidore and other^ ^ 
learned men,* state that there are certain zones on the f Qjf 
heavens under which men cannot live. One is very hot 
and, because of the glowing heat which burns every- 
thing that comes beneath it, people cannot exist under 
this zone. It seems reasonable that this is the broad path 
of the sun, and I believe it is because this zone is per- 
vaded with the sun's flaming rays that no one who 
wishes only a moderately warm dwelling place can live 
beneath it. These writers have also said concerning two 
other zones in the sky that under them too the land is 
uninhabitable; because, on account of their frigidity, it 
is no more comfortable to dwell under them than under 
the first mentioned where the heat is torrid. For there 
the cold has developed such a power that water casts 
aside its nature and turns into ice masses; in this way 
all those lands become ice-cold, and the seas too, that 
lie under either of these two zones. From this I conclude 
that there are five zones in the heavens: two under 

* Isidore of Seville (d. 636) discusses the five zones in his Etymologiae, iii, c. 
xliv; xiii, c. vi; and in his DeNatura Rerum, c. x. The editors of the Sorb edition 
suggest that the " other learned men " may be Macrobius and Martianus 
Capella, the famous encyclopedists of the fifth century (p. 195). But as these 
writers preceded Isidore by nearly two centuries, it is unlikely that their 
works were more than indirect sources for the scientific statements in the 
Speculum Regale. It is more probable that the reference is to such writers as 
Bede, Rabanus Maurus, and Honorius of Autun, though it is impossible to 
specify what authority was followed. 


which the earth is habitable, and three under which it 
is uninhabitable. 

Now all the land that lies under the zones between 
the hot and the cold belts can be occupied; but it is 
likely that owing to location the lands differ somewhat, 
so that some are hotter than others; the hottest being 
those that are nearest the torrid belt. But lands that 
are cold, like ours, lie nearer the frigid zones, where the 
frost is able to use its chilling powers. Now in my opinion 
it seems most probable that the hot zone extends from 
east to west in a curved ring like a flaming girdle around 
the entire sphere. On the other hand, it is quite probable 
that the cold zones lie on the outer edges of the world 
to the north and south : and in case I have thought this 
out correctly, it is not unlikely that Greenland lies under 
the frigid belt; for most of those^who have visited Green- 
land testify that there the cold has received its greatest 
strength. Moreover, both sea and land bear testimony in 
their very selves that there the frost and the overpower- 
ing cold have become dominant, for both are frozen and 
covered with ice in summer as well as in winter. 

It has been stated as a fact that Greenland lies on the 
outermost edge of the earth toward the north; and I do 
not believe there is any land in the home-circle beyond 
Greenland, only the great ocean that runs around the 
earth. And we are told by men who are informed that 
alongside Greenland the channel is cut through which 
the wide ocean rushes into the gap that lies between the 
land masses and finally branches out into fjords and in- 
lets which cut in between the lands wherever the sea is 
allowed to flow out upon the earth's surface. 


You asked whether the sun shines in Greenland and 
whether there ever happens to be fair weather there as 
in other countries; and you shall know of a truth that 
the land has beautiful sunshine and is said to have a 
rather pleasant climate. The sun's course varies greatly, 
however; when winter is on, the night is almost contin- 
uous; but when it is summer, there is almost constant 
day. When the sun rises highest, it has abundant power 
to shine and give light, but very little to give warmth 
and heat; still, it has sufficient strength, where the 
ground is free from ice, to warm the soil so that the 
earth yields good and fragrant grass. Consequently, 
^people may easily till the land where the frost leaves, 
but that is a very small part. J 

But as to that matter which you have often inquired 
about, what those lights can be which the Greenlanders 
call the northern lights, I have no clear knowledge. I 
have often met men who have spent a long time in 
Greenland, but they do not seem to know definitely 
what those lights are. However, it is true of that subject 
as of many others of which we have no sure knowledge, 
that thoughtful men will form opinions and conjec- 
tures about it and will make such guesses as seem rea- 
sonable and likely to be true. But these northern lights 
have this peculiar nature, that the darker the night is, 
the brighter they seem; and they always appear at 
night but never by day, most frequently in the dens- 
est darkness and rarely by moonlight. In appearance 
they resemble a vast flame of fire viewed from a great 
distance. It also looks as if sharp points were shot from 
this flame up into the sky; these are of uneven height 


and in constant motion, now one, now another darting 
highest; and the light appears to blaze like a living 
flame. While these rays are at their highest and bright- 
est, they give forth so much light that people out of 
doors can e'asily find their way about and can even go 
hunting, if need be. Where people sit in houses that 
have windows, it is so light inside that all within the 
room can see each other's faces. The light is very change- 
able. Sometimes it appears to grow dim, as if a black 
smoke or a dark fog were blown up among the rays; and 
then it looks very much as if the light were overcome by 
this smoke and about to be quenched. But as soon as 
the smoke begins to grow thinner, the light begins to 
brighten again; and it happens at times that people 
think they see large sparks shooting out of it as from 
glowing iron which has just been taken from the forge. 
But as night declines and day approaches, the light be- 
gins to fade; and when daylight appears, it seems to 
vanish entirely. 

The men who have thought about and discussed these 

lights have guessed at three sources, one of which, it 

seems, ought to be the true one. Some hold that fire 

/ circles about the ocean and all the bodies of water that 

( stream about on the outer sides of the globe; and since 

^Greenland lies on the outermost edge of the earth to the 

north, they think it possible that these lights shine forth 

from the fires that encircle the outer ocean. Others have 

suggested that during the hours of night, when the sun's 

course is beneath the earth, an occasional gleam of its 

light may shoot up into the sky; for they insist that 

Greenland lies so far out on the earth's edge that the 


curved surface which shuts out the sunlight must be 
less prominent there. But there are still others who be- 
lieve (and it seems to me not unlikely) that the frost 
and the glaciers have become so powerful there that 
they are able to radiate forth these flames. I know 
nothing further that has been conjectured on this sub- 
ject, only these three theories that I have presented; as 
to their correctness I do not decide, though the last 
mentioned looks quite plausible to me. I know of no 
other facts about Greenland that seem worth discussing 
or mentioning, only those that we have talked abou 
and what we have noted as the opinions of well-informed 



Son. Everything that you have told here seems won- 
derful to me, though also very instructive, and this fact 
most of all, that men, as you have pointed out, are able 
to leave the earth, as it were, and view for themselves 
the boundaries which God has drawn amid such great 
perils. Your last remark, however, suggests that there 
is yet a little matter to inquire about along this same 
line. In speaking of those three conjectures you said 
that you think it most likely that these lights have their 
origin in frost and ice; but just before in describing their 
appearance, you added that now and then fog and dark 
mist resembling smoke would mount up among these 
lights. But even if the cold should be so prevalent there 
as to give rise to these lights with their fire-like rays, I 
cannot help wondering whence that smoke can come 

j / yo 

JZJ> ( in 


which sometimes appears to shade and becloud the 
light till it seems almost quenched; for to me it seems 
more likely that the smoke is due to heat than to frost. 
There is one more thing that looks strange to me which 
you mentioned earlier in your speech, namely that you 
consider Greenland as having a good climate, even 
though it is full of ice and glaciers. It is hard for me to 
understand how such a land can have a good climate. 

Father. When you say, in asking about the smoke 
that sometimes appears to accompany the northern 
lights, that you think it more likely that the smoke 
xjomes from heat than from cold, I agree with you. But 
you must also know that wherever the earth is thawed 
under the ice, it always retains some heat down in the 
^ depths. In the same way the ocean under the ice re- 
tains some warmth in its depths. But if the earth were 
wholly without warmth or heat, it would be one mass 
of ice from the surface down to its lowest foundations. 
Likewise, if the ocean were without any heat, it would 
be solid ice from the surface to the bottom. Now large 
rifts may appear in the ice that covers the land as well 
as openings in the ice upon the sea. But wherever the 
earth thaws out and lies bare, whether in places where 
there is no ice or under the yawning rifts in the glacier, 
and wherever the sea lies bare in the openings that have 
formed in the ice, there steam is emitted from the lower 
depths; and it may be that this vapor collects and ap- 
pears like smoke or dark fog; and that, whenever it 
looks as if the lights are about to be quenched by smoke 
or fog, it is this vapor that collects before them. 


In reply to your remark about the climate of Green- 
land, that you think it strange that it is called a good 
climate, I shall tell you something about the nature of 
the land. When storms do come, they are more severe 
than in most other places, both with respect to keen 
winds and vast masses of ice and snow. But usually 
these spells of rough weather last only a short while 
and come at long intervals only. In the meantime the 
weather is fair, though the cold is intense. For it is in 
the nature of the glacier to emit a cold and continuous 
breath which drives the storm clouds away from its 
face so that the sky above is usually clear.* But the 
neighboring lands often have to suffer because of this; 
for all the regions that lie near get severe weather from 
this ice, inasmuch as all the storms that the glacier 
drives away from itself come upon others with keen 
blasts. Now if this is clear to you, I believe there is no 
need of giving any further explanation of the subject 
than what you have now heard. 



Son. These things are all clear to me and it seems 
reasonable that they should be as you say. Still, there 
are a few things that you mentioned a little earlier in 
your talk, which I wish to ask about, if you permit^You 
said that both sides of the earth are cold, the southern 

* By glacier the author evidently means the great inland ice masses. On the 
effect of this inland ice on the climate of Greenland and neighboring regions, 
see Nansen, In Northern Mists, II 247 


[I-g as well as the northern jBut I hear it said by all men 
who come from the regions to the south that the farther 
south one travels, the hotter the lands are. Likewise all 
the winds that come from the south are both moister 
and milder than other winds. In the winter those winds 
always bring a good thaw, while other winds are so cold 
that they bring frost, and ice is formed. And during the 
summer the south wind is still warmer than other winds. 
Now if my questions do not tire you and I do not seem 
to ask too much, I should like to have you answer this 
question too. 

Father. When I told you that in the skies three belts 
are traced under which it is difficult to cross, one torrid 
and two frigid, I added that the hot belt curves from 
east to west. But if I have stated this correctly, it will 
be evident that the cold must be as severe in the south- 

(ern parts as in the northern.* I believe, however, that 
all the regions lying near the hot belt, whether on the 
south side or on the north, are also hot; but I believe 
those lands to be frigid which lie very far in either di- 
rection*. You have stated that all men tell us that the 
farther south one travels, the greater the heat; but that, 
[ I believe, is due to the fact that you have never found 
any one who has traveled as far south of the hot belt as 
; those lands which we have now talked of lie to the north. 
You have also said that the winds which come from a 
southerly direction are warmer than the rest. But it is 
reasonable that the south wind should be warm when it 

* Cf. Macrobius, 601. "... for both the northern and the southern extrem- 
ities lie stiff with perpetual frost, and they are like two zones with which the 
earth is girdled, but narrow as if they were circlets drawn about the farthest 


reaches us, even though it comes from the frozen south! $J 
side of the earth, for it blows through the curved ring 
of the torrid belt.* Consequently, though it blows cold 
from the south, it is warm when it emerges on the north- 
ern side. And if people live as near the cold belt on the 
southern side as the Greenlanders do on the northern, 
I firmly believe that the north wind blows as warm to 
them as the south wind to us. For they must look north 
to see the midday and the sun's whole course, just 
as we, who dwell north of the sun, must look to the 

We have said earlier that in winter the sun's course 
here is short, but of such extraordinary length in sum- 
mer that we then have day nearly all the time. From 
this you may conclude that the sun's path is quite 
broad and that its course is not narrow and straight as 
if it were always following a certain line. As soon as it 
reaches the outer edge of its sloping circuit toward the 
south, those who live on the extreme side of the world 
to the south have summer and long sun paths, while we 
have winter and little sunlight. And when the sun comes 
to the extreme edge of its circuit to the north, we have 
long-continued sunshine, while they have cold winter. 
For it is always this way, that the sun rises higher in the 
north when its path declines in the south: and when its 
course begins to decline in the north, it begins to wax 
on the southern side. 

* Macrobius states the same belief in quite similar terms: the south wind 
comes from a frozen clime just as the north wind does; but " since it comes to 
us through the flames of the torrid zone and mixes with the fire, it becomes 
hot, so that what was cold in the beginning comes to us with warmth." (P. 



f/You should also know that the change from day to 
night is due to the movements of the sunj For some 
places have midday when others have midnight; and 
the day dawns and brightens in some places just when 
darkness begins and night falls in other places.* For 
the day and the light always follow the sun, while the 
shadows flee from it; still they follow after it as it moves 
away; and there is always night where the shadows are, 
but always day where the light is. Now if you under- 
stand all these things that we have discussed in these 
hours, the change in day and night, the course of the 
sun, and all the other matters that we have talked 
/ , | about, you may count yourself thoroughly prepared 
^ C r \ for the trader's calling, inasmuch as few only have had 
I more instruction in these subjects than you have had. 



Son. I should indeed consider it highly informing, if 
I could remember all the things that you have now told 
me. I gather from your remarks, however, that you 
seem to think that I have asked about too many things 
in these our talks. But if you are not wearied with my 
questions, there still remains a little matter which, with 
your permission, I should like to ask about, one that 
also seems to belong to the knowledge of seafarers. 

In a talk some time ago you said that whoever wishes 
(^ to be a (merchant ought to be prepared early in spring, 
J and be careful not to remain out at sea too late in the 

* Cf. Capella, Satiricon, 204. 


autumn; but you did not indicate the earliest time in / 
the spring when you think one may risk a journey over- y 
seas to other countries, nor how late you consider it / 
safe to sail the seas in autumnjYou told how the ocean / 
manages to quiet its storms, but you did not show un- 
der what circumstances it begins to grow restless. There- 
fore I would fain ask you again to answer this question, - 
even if it does annoy you, for I think that a time may 
come when it will seem both needful to know this and 
instructive to understand it. 

Father. The matters to which you are now referring 
can scarcely be grouped under one head; for the seas 
are not all alike, nor are they all of equal extent. Small 
seas have no great perils, and one may risk crossing 
them at almost any time; for one has to make sure of 
fair winds to last a day or two only, which is not diffi- 
cult for men who understand the weather. And there 
are many lands where harbors are plentiful as soon as 
the shore is reached. If the circumstances are such that 
a man can wait for winds in a good haven or may confi- 
dently expect to find good harbors as soon as he has 
crossed, or if the sea is so narrow that he needs to pro- 
vide for a journey of only a day or two, then he may ven- 
ture to sail over such waters almost whenever he wishes. 
But where travel is beset with greater perils, whether 
because the sea is wide and full of dangerous currents, 
or because the prow points toward shores where the 
harbors are rendered insecure by rocks, breakers, shal- 
lows, or sand bars, wherever the situation is such, 
one needs to use great caution; and no one should ven- 
ture to travel over such waters when the season is late. 



Now as to the time that you asked about, it seems to 
me most correct to say that one should hardly venture 
over-seas later than the beginning of October. For at 
that time the sea begins to grow very restless, and the 
tempests always increase in violence as autumn passes 
'and winter approaches. [And about the time when we 
[date thefsixteenth of Octoberjthe east wind begins to 
look sorrowful and thinks himself disgraced, now that 
Ihis headgear, the golden crown, is taken away. He puts 
a cloud-covered hat on his head and breathes heavily 
and violently, as if mourning a recent loss. But when 
the southeast wind sees how vexed his neighbor is, he 
is stricken with a double grief: the one sorrow is that 
he fears the same deprivation as the east wind has suf- 
fered; the other is grief over the misfortunes of his good 
and estimable neighbor. Stirred by the distress of a re- 
sentful mind, he knits his brows under the hiding clouds 
and blows the froth violently about him. When the south 
wind sees the wrath of his near neighbors, he wraps him- 
self in a cloud-lined mantle in which he conceals his treas- 
ures and his wealth of warm rays and blows vigorously as 
if in terrifying defence. And when the southwest wind 
observes how friendship has cooled, now that the truce 
is broken, he sobs forth his soul's grief in heavy showers, 
rolls his eyes above his tear-moistened beard, puffs his 
cheeks under the cloudy helmet, blows the chilling 
scud violently forward, leads forth huge billows, wide- 
breasted waves, and breakers that yearn for ships, and 
orders all the tempests to dash forward in angry contest. 

But when the west wind observes that a wrathful 
blast and a sorrowful sighing are coming across to him 



from the east, whence formerly he was accustomed to 
receive shining beams with festive gifts, he understands 
clearly that the covenant is broken and that all treaties 
are renounced. Deeply grieved and pained because of 
the unpeace, he puts on a black robe of mourning over 
which he pulls a cloud-gray cloak, and, sitting with 
wrinkled nose and pouting lips, he breathes heavily with 
regretful care. And when the ill-tempered northwest 
wind observes how sorrowful his neighbors look, and 
sees how he himself has suffered the loss of the evening 
beauty which he was formerly accustomed to display, 
he shows at once his temper in stern wrath : he knits his 
brows fiercely, throws rattling hail violently about, and 
sends forth the rolling thunder with terrifying gleams 
of lightning, thus displaying on his part a fearful and 
merciless anger. But when the north wind misses the 
friendliness and the kind gifts which he was wont to get 
from the south wind, he seeks out his hidden treasures 
and displays the wealth that he has most of: he brings 
out a dim sheen which glitters with frost, places an ice- 
cold helmet on his head above his frozen beard, and 
blows hard against the hail-bearing cloud-heaps. But 
the chill northeast wind sits wrathful with snowy beard 
and breathes coldly through his wind-swollen nostrils. 
Glaring fiercely under his rimy brows, he wrinkles his 
cheeks beneath his cold and cloudy temples, puffs his 
jowl with his icy tongue, and blows the piercing drjft- 
snow vigorously forth. 

But since peace has been broken among these eight 
chiefs and the winds are stirred to stormy violence, 
it is no longer advisable for men to travel over-seas"7 


from shore to shore because of great perils: the days 
shorten; the nights grow darker; the sea becomes rest- 
less; the waves grow stronger and the surf is colder; 
showers increase and storms arise; the breakers swell 
and the shores refuse good harbors; the sailors become 
exhausted, the lading is lost, and there is great and con- 
stant destruction of life due to a too great venturesome- 
ness; souls are placed in perils of judgment because of 
recklessness and sudden death. Therefore all sensible 
men should beware and not venture upon the sea too 
late in the season; for there are many dangers to look 
out for and not one alone, if a man dares too much at 
such times. Consequently, the better plan is to sail while 
summer is at its best; for one is not likely to meet mis- 
fortune if there has been careful and wise forethought. 
But it would surely pass all expectations if that were 
to succeed which was foolishly advised and planned at 
e beginning, though sometimes the outcome may be 
f favorable.Q consider it a more sensible plan for a man 
1 to remain quiet as long as much danger may be looked 
j for, and to enjoy during the winter in proper style and 
( in restful leisure what he labored to win during the sum- 
merjthan to risk in a little while through his own ob- 
stinate contriving the loss of all the profit which he 
strove to gain in the summer. But first of all a man 
must have care for his own person; for he can have 
no further profit, if it fares so ill that he himself goes 




Son. I did wisely to continue my inquiries when we 
had our last talk; for you have given replies which will 
be useful as well as instructive for all who have the 
sense to understand and profit by such matters as we 
have discussed. But I wish to ask you again to tell me 
briefly how early in the spring and at what stated time 
you think one may venture to travel over-seas to other I 
shores, just as I asked in my earlier inquiries. y 

Father. [Men may venture out upon almost any sea J f 
except the largest as early as the beginning of April. 
For at the time when we date the sixteenth of March,J 
the days lengthen, the sun rises higher, and the nights 
grow shorter. The north wind gently clears up the face 
of heaven with a light and cool breeze, brushes away 

the restless and storm-laden clouds, and j?vith blithe per- -i /> , 

suasiveness asks for a new covenant. Then peace is re- V 

newed among the winds, for they all yearn for rest after \ 
the season of violent wrath and wearisome blasts fj so > 
they make a covenant once more in the way that we 
told earlier when we described the peace making. The 
showers cease, the waves sink to rest, the breakers flag, 
the swell of the noisy ocean dies away, all the storms 
weaken, and quiet follows upon restless turmoil. 

Now I have done as you requested: I have pointed 
out the seasons with definite dates both in spring and 
fall, when it seems most advisable to brave the perils' 
of the sea. I have also informed you as to the times that 


seem more suitable for rest than for travel. I have like- 
wise described briefly the sources of light in the sky and 
the belts that are drawn across the heaven, those under 
which travel is difficult and those which allow travel. 
And if you keep carefully in mind all these things that 
I have discussed with you, you will never be counted 
among the ignorant navigators, if you shall decide to 
try the trader's calling. My advice, therefore, is first 
to fix in your mind all the facts which you have now 
heard; and later you shall have a chance to ask further 
questions, if you should wish to do so. 



Son. The last time that I had a talk with you, sire, 
I heard a wise speech from your lips, one that should 
profit every man who intends to follow the craft with 
which our conversation was concerned. Since then I 
have meditated on that speech, and I believe that I 
have fixed firmly in memory most of the facts that were 
brought out at the time, whatever luck I may have later 
in trying to apply them. No doubt I ought, like every- 
one else, to observe carefully all the good which I have 
been taught; and more is to be expected from those who 
take thought than from those who forget. But whatever 
[success or good fortune I may have in the practice, I 
'-delight to learn while I have the opportunity. Now I 
^ *r s ^ nave some subjects in mind which I wish to in- 
\V ^ quire about, but[J am going to ask your consent to a 


discussion before I bring up the questions in which I 
am now interested j and when I have presented these, 
I shall await your answers. 

Father. When we last met and talked about the do- 
ings and mode of living of merchants, we mentioned, 
I believe, most of the things that were in real need of 
discussion; and I feel sure that no man will have ill 
repute from his conduct who everywhere observes with 
care what was then brought out. But if you still wish 
and are anxious to make further inquiries into these 
matters, I shall be glad to answer, if I can. And 

if you wish to open another discussion, I shall also be 

glad to answer, as far as I have knowledge. You have 
permission, therefore, to_askjust asyoujike; and on 
my side there shall be such replies as God enables me 
to give. 

Son. The talk that I last heard you give concerning 
the business of merchants was delivered with more evi- 
dent wisdom in the answers than in the questions; and 
I shall now let that subject rest. As I have in mind, 
with your permission, to try that business, it may be 
that a very long time will pass between our conversa- 
tions. And when I am far away from you, I shall have 
no opportunity to seek your advice, though I should 
wish to do so, in case my mind should turn to some craft 
or business other than that of the merchant's trade. 
But though, God willing, we may meet again in good 
health, it seems to me advisable to ask about those v 
things that I am interested in, while I have sure op^Ay 
portunity to learn. And while there is opportunity we ) 
should learn what we do not know, for this reason es- / 


pecially, that we cannot be sure of a chance to inquire 
when it seems most needful to seek knowledge. Now 
after having learned the trader's mode of_ living and 
how to travel in unknown lands, it might happen that 
I should want to visit the king's court, where I could 
see more perfect manners than thosejto be seen on my 
commercial tours; and therefore I should like to learn 
from you, while here at home,lsuch manners as are most 
needful to know, when one is at court^though it is not 
sure that I shall have to use them. Now if such an in- 
terest does not seem worthless to you, I should like to 
have you inform me as to those customs that I have 

Father. It cannot be called worthless curiosity to 

wish to know what customs prevail and must be ob- 

j** ~ '^ -" i 

.> f served at the king's court ;lf or all rnurt.esy and proper 
conduct have their origin there, if the mode_qf life is 
^as it ought to Vft and fts it was ordained of old.MStilK 
customs at court are by no means of one sort only, for 
there isfa multitude of services and offices about the 
kingjandfthose of his men who are less in rank are usu- 
a lly no t held to strict manners. Those who are higher 
~* / in the service often differ much in manners and deport- 

^ V mentjso that the men who observe the better customs 
are, unfortunately, fewer, as a rule, than those who are 
moderately courteous, or scarcely so much. Now I do 
not know whose conduct you are interested in, that of 
the more mannerly or of the greater number. 




Son. It would be most profitable both for me and 
for all others who are interested in unfamiliar subjects, 
whether good breeding or other knowledge, to learn 
what is best and most useful. For there are but few 
masters who can teach such things, and they are all 
more difficult to grasp than those subjects which are of 
but slight value or wholly worthless. Now since I hear 
that there are differences both in the duties of men and 
in the customs of the court, I shall ask you to inform 
me as to the regulations there and to explain how the 
services differ and what belongs to each; also to point 
out the customs which seem good to you and which are 
surely needful to learn, if one wishes to serve a king 
with honor, as well as those which one who wishes to 
be reputed a moral man should shun and beware of. I 
have this reason, too, for seeking this information so 
earnestly, that/J have seen men come from a king's 
household, whose conduct I have noted carefully, most L 
of whom seemed only about as well bred as those who j 
had never been at court, or even less than theyJNowy 
I do not know which is the more likely, whether I do 
not understand what good breeding means, or that the 
facts are as they seemed to me. 

Father. If it should be your fate to serve at court and 
you wish to be called courtly and polite, you will need 
to beware of what happens to those who come to court 
without manners and leave without refinement. But 
since you have asked how the services and the usages 



at a royal court differ, I shall now explain that to you, 
and also show why some return thence rude and un- 
polished. When a dull man fares to court, it is as when 
an ignorant fellow travels to Jerusalem, or a simpleton 
enters a good school. An ignorant man who has been 
to Jerusalem believes himself well informed and tells 
many things about his journey, though chiefly what 
Aeems worthless to a knowing man, or mere sport and 
I foolery. In the same way the simpleton who comes from 
( school believes himself to be perfectly educated; he 
V struts about and shows great disdain whenever he meets 
\one who knows nothing. But when he meets one who 
is a real scholar, he himself knows naught. So it is, 
too, when stupid men come to the king's court: they 
promptly seek out men of their own kind and learn 
from them such things as are most easily grasped and 
into which they had gotten some insight earlier; but 
this is mere folly and unwisdom. And when they return 
from court, they will display such manners and courtesy 
as they learned there. And yet, many who come from 
strange places, whether from other lands or courts, will 
behave in this way; but when those who have remained 
at home find that these men bring great tidings, they 
come to regard them at once as thoroughly informed, 
both as to customs and happenings, seeing that they 

^ have visited alien peoples and foreign lands; and this 

is most often the case with dull men. Now if you aim 
at good breeding, beware lest you fall into such un- 
wisdom. We may now take up the question how the 
duties of the men at court differ and what belongs to 
each service. 


the men who have gone to the king's hand * are 
housecarles Jbut honors and authority \are distributed 
among them according to the merits of each and as the 
king wishes to grant.)[Thus one class of housecarles is 
made up of men who are always present at court, but 
draw no wages, and do not eat and drink where thejiird- 
men take their meals. They have to do such service in 
the king's garth as the steward shall assign, whether it 
be to go on a journey or to do manual labor in the garth.] 



Son. I pray you, sire, not to regard me as thoughtless 
or as wishing to interrupt your discourse, if I inquire 
briefly about the duties of these men. 

Father. While we are on this subject, you had better 
ask what you like, or you may regret it later, having 
come away ill informed about what you wanted to hear, 
because you did not inquire sufficiently. 

Son. Since those whom you have just mentioned live 
by labor and manual toil in the king's garth and have 
no greater honors than at home in the country, what 
advantage do they find in being with the king more 
than in serving their parents or kinsmen in the country 
or engaging in trade and winning wealth in that way ? 

Father. There are many reasons why such men would 
rather be at court than live in the country or engage in 

* To go to the king's hand (ganga konungi til handa) is the technical term for 
the formal initiation into the royal service. " The king was in his high-seat 
with his guard grouped about him; across his knees lay a sword, his right 


trade {Some prefer being at court to living in the coun- 
try (though in the king's service thetr labor is as bur- 
densome, or more so) because, though they are of excel- 
lent kinship, they have little wealth and cannot engage 
in trade on account of their poverty .Jlf they take up 
work in the country, they find many who have more 
wealth, though they are no higher in kinship, or scarcely 
so high.^And when quarrels arise, the rich find protec- 

-< tion in their wealth and thrust the poor aside, so that 

C these can get no justice in their law suitsj Consequently 
Jfeikz^' such men think it better to toil in security at court than 
*( without protection in the country. (Others may have 

J committed manslaughter or have come into other diffi- 
" / culties which make it urgent for them to seek security 

L in the king's powerJSome there are, too, who always 
find pleasure in being in a throng; they also feel more 
secure there, whatever may happen. When these come 
back to the country where earlier they seemed so utterly 
defenseless, they regard themselves as the peers of every 
one, because of the protection which they enjoy as kings- 
men .[if one of them is slain in single combat, the king 
will take forty marks * in thegn money \ for him as for 

hand grasping the hilt. The candidate approached, knelt, touched the sword- 
hilt, and kissed the royal hand. He then arose and took the oath of fealty. ^ 
Kneeling once more he placed his folded hands between those of the king and 
kissed his new lord." Larson, " The Household of the Norwegian Kings in the 
Thirteenth Century:" American Historical Review, XIII, 461. 
* The mark as a standard of value was widely used in the middle ages. Origi- 
nally it was a measure of weight equivalent to eight ounces of gold or silver. 
Its value varied at different times and in different places. Dr. Gjerset esti- 
mates the purchasing power of a mark of silver in the fourteenth century as 
equal to that of $80 at the present time. History of the Norwegian People, II, 
18-19, note. 

t Thegn money (]>egngildi) was a fine paid to the king by one who had been 
guilty of manslaughter. 



his other thegns, and, in addition, one mark gold asf 
housecarle fine,* which he exacts whenever a housecarle 1 
is slain 7j 

You shall also know that/many come to court fronT^ 
the country who were considered of little consequence / 
there; and yet, it often happens that the king gives high C* 
honors to such men in return for their servicefjif they J 
perform it well, though they are but slightly honored in 
their own homes. Those, on the other hand, whom the 
cotters in the country seemed to value highly for their 
wealth, kindred, and fellowship, are often no more re- 
garded at the royal court than in their home commu- 
nities and sometimes even less. Indeed, those who come 
to the king with riches are often honored less than those 
who come in poverty. [Frequently, men who come to 
court with little wealth or none at all and have no choice 
but to accept what the king graciously offers are set so 
high in riches and power that they tower above their 
kinsmen, though before they came to the king they were 
not regarded as their equalsjThey win this either by 
bravery in warfare and good deportment at court, or by 
being faithful to the king in all things and striving to be 
discreet and loving toward himlJFor the king helps and 
promotes those whom he finds to be anxious to remain 
truly affectionate toward him and to serve him in loyal 
friendship. For these reasons asking by an act of grace."? 
will very often exalt those who are lacking in riches ;JT 
and therefore many such are encouraged to seek service 
at court, where they all expect to win rewards, high 
honors, and marked advancement in position. 

* The housecarle fine was higher than that exacted for the death of a common ~1 fc*. ^ 
subject because the housecarle stood in a personal relation to the king. J 




Son. I believe I have now had correct and adequate 
answers, and it no longer seems strange to me that such 
men as you have just talked about would rather be 
kingsmen than remain in the country, even though their 
duties are as toilsome as those of the farmer, or even 
more so. But now I wish to ask you to describe the other 
services at the king's court, so that I may, if possible, 
gain some knowledge of every one of them. 

Father. That is surely possible, and since you are in- 
terested in such matters, I shall give you what informa- 
tion I have concerning them. There are certain other 
housecarles at the king's court, who, in addition to 
the housecarle's title, have a by-name and are called 
| /"" gests." ^ They have this name from their manifold 
1 duties; for they visit the homes of many, though not 
1 always with friendly intent These men are also in the 
king's pay and get half the wages of " hirdmen.'J] These 
1 are the duties that belong to the office of these menfthey 
serve as spies throughout the king's domain to make 
/ &i,~t*\ sure whether he has any enemies in his kingdom;] and 
I if such are found/jtne gests are to slay themjjif they are 
(,** 1\ \ able to do so.But if the king sends his gests upon his 
5^ ^ ~0 1 enemies and those against whom they are sent are slain, 
f // fa f I they are to have for their trouble as much of the ene- 
l mies' wealth as they can carry away at the time, only 
/ no gold, for that is the king's, as is all the rest that the 
/ gests are unable to bring away. And whenever the king 

* See American Historical Review, XIII, 469-471. 


becomes aware of an enemy, it is the gest's duty to 
pursue the foeman and thus to cleanse the realm. When- 
ever they are present at court, they keep the various 
watches about the king, just as the others do who share 
the king's bounty in the royal garth, except the head- 
ward; * this they do not keep; nor do they sit at table 
to eat or drink in the house where the king dines with 
his hirdmen, except at Christmas and Easter, when they 
are to eat with the hirdmen in the king's hall, but at no 
other time. If any of these men be slain in single com- 
bat, the king exacts as large a fine both in thegn money 
and housecarle fine as for the death of those whom we 
discussed earlier. 

There is still another class of royal housecarles who 
do not share the king's tables and but rarely come to 
court; these receive nothing from the king but protec- 
tion and support in securing justice from others; but 
these, too, are kingsmen. In case any of these are slain, 
the king exacts the same housecarle fine in addition to 
the thegn money as in the case of those housecarles who 
dine at his tables. These men come into his service from 
various walks of life: some are peasants, some mer- 
chants, and some laymen. But this service they owe the 
king before all his other subjects, namely, that wherever 
the king's officials come at his command to present the 
king's causes or business, and these housecarles of whom 
we are speaking are present, they must Join tbe retinue 
of these officials and render such assistance as they cnn 
in all the king's business. These, too, may claim support 

* The head-ward was stationed near the king's person, usually outside the 
door of the chamber where he slept. See American Historical Review, XIII, 


from the kingsmen in their efforts to obtain justice, 
wherever they have suits to bring up. Likewise if any 
of these men are slain, the fines due the king will be 
increased as much as for those whom we spoke of 

There is another class of royal housecarles who re- 
ceive money payments from the king, some twelve 
aura? some two marks, some three marks, and others 
more, in proportion as the king finds them likely to add 


to his strength and credit IThese men do not dine with 
\ the king at court; they are abroad in the realm in a sort 
) of ^official capacity, for some of them are sons of the 
L king's landedmen,fj while others are peasants, though 
so wealthy that they seem to rank with the landedmen. 
These royal housecarles owe the king the same kind of 
service as those whom we have just mentioned, but 
more, inasmuch as they haye greater prestige and_en- 
joy greater favors from the kin^; and the fines due the 
king in case these men are ill used will be increased 
about as much as has been stated before. From all these 
kingsmen that we have now told about, who do not dine 
at his tables, the king may demand such service as he 
finds each capable of: some are called to pilot the long- 
ships when the king sets out on a naval campaign; some 
are sent abroad in embassies to foreign rulers and other 
princes; while others are sent out upon the sea as traders 

* The Eyrir (pi. aura, from Latin aurum ?) was an ounce of silver, or one- 
eighth of a mark. 

f The landedman (lendir raaoV) was one who enjoyed a fief granted by the 
king. The term was also used in a more restricted sense for the local chieftains 
who in return for the fief enjoyed gave certain assistance in the local admin- 
istration. See N&rges Gamle Love, V, 396-397; Gjerset, History of the Nor- 
wegian People, I, 387-388; American Historical Review, XIII, 467-468. 



with the king's wares or ships. *JThese are the duties s 
that they are bound to perform with such other duties 
as may arise out of the king's needs. 

Now I have told you about several classes of the 
king's servants, and you will have to determine which 
of those enumerated seem to you most likely to know 
much about courtly behavior and the manners that 
ought by right to be found at a king's court; they are 
all kingsmen, however. And from this you will observe 
that every man cannot become perfect in all courtly 
customs and manners just as soon as he sees the king 
and his men; for a man will have to be both quick^-i 
witted and quick to learn, who, if he lacks in breeding, I 
is to learn perfect courtliness in a year's time, even K* 
though every day of the year is spent at court among-' 
the hirdmen in the king's own presence. Now you shalH 
know this of a truth, that there are many at court who( 
have spent a large part of their lives there and have\, 
daily opportunities to see good deportment, and yet 1 c ^ 
they never become either courtly or well-bred. 

^ Jfa 



<Son. If such is the case, that some of the customs at 
court are so difficult to learn that both quick wit and 
continued observation are necessary, it seems evident 
that the men whom you have just now spoken of can 

* The kings of medieval Norway seem to have engaged quite actively in the 
mercantile profession. The trade with the Finns was made a royal monopoly 
at least as early as the tenth century; later the trade with Greenland also 
passed into the king's hands. 


have but slight knowledge of what constitutes deport- 
ment or good manners in the king's house, though they 
be kingsmen, since they come but rarely into those of 
the royal apartments where good manners must espe- 
cially be observed. But there is yet something that I 
am anxious to know concerning the duties of those men 
of whom you spoke last: what profit can such men as 
have an abundance of wealth and kinsmen find in the 
king's service and in binding themselves to his service 
with the housecarle name as their only title ? Why do 
not they rather seek the honor of being called hirdmen, 
or remain at home looking after their property as other 
husbandmen do ? 

Father. I should say that you have not inquired very 
wisely into this matter; still, as you do not appear to be 
well informed on this subject, I think it better for you 
to question than to remain ignorant, and since you have 
inquired I ought to answer. There are many reasons, as 
we have already said, why men would rather be kings- 
men than be called by the peasant's name only. The 
first reply must be that/the king owns the entire king- 
dom as well as all the people in it, so that all the men 
X.. who are in his kingdom owe him service whenever his 
V^needs demand itjTThus the king has a right to call upon 
every freeman, who seems fitted for it or is found to 
possess suitable insight, to serve in embassies to foreign 
lords ; likewise, when the king calls upon the freemen to 
pilot his ship in warfare, each one who is appointed must 
attend, though he be the king's henchman only so far 
as he is his subject./Even if a king should order a clerk 
or a bishopjof his kingdom to fare as envoy to another 


king or to the pope, if such is his wish, the one who is x 
called must set out, unless he is willing to risk the king's f 
enmity and to be driven from the kingdom^ 

Now since all the men of the realm are thus bound to ' 
the royal service,why should not every sensible man"") s 
regard it a greater advantage to be in the king's full I 
protection and friendship, no matter what may happen V- <* c 
in his intercourse with other men, and to be superior to / 
his comrades and hold them loyal to the king if they \ 
will not otherwise obey/Jthan to be failed a mere cotter J 
who is constantly under the control of others, though 
he still owes nearly the same duties as otherwise ? Verily 
you must know that to be called a king's housecarle is 
not to be despised as a title of derision ; but it is a name 
of great honor to everyone who bears it. For neither^ 
landedmen nor hirdmen, though because of some in- 
firmity or because they are tired of warfare they prefer 
to cultivate an estate in the country, are willing to sur- 
render the housecarle name because of its honor and 
security. Now if there is any phase of this subject that 
seems insufficiently inquired into or explained, we may 
extend the conversation if you wish. 



Sow. This subject has been discussed almost too fully 
and has been cleared up for me with such good and com- 
plete answers that it looks to me as if a man cannot dis- 
pense with the king's support, if he wishes to found his 
cause securely. For the multitude is fickle-minded and 


the one unfair toward the other, except those alone to 
A /"whom God has given wisdom and rectitude; but they 
w (^are few only and not the mass. However, as there are 
certain matters relating to the service and manners at 
court that are still unexplained, I should like to hear 
you discuss these further, lest I continue ignorant about 
subjects that I desire to know. 

Father. We must now speak about those of the king's 
housecarles who, if they give proper attention, are best 
able to acquire knowledge as to what is counted good 
manners in royal circles. They too, however, differ in 
character, and those are very often the fewer who should 
be the more numerous. These kingsmen that we are now 
to discuss have, in addition to the housecarle name, the 
title of hirdmen. Some bear that title rightfully, but to 
many it is a nickname. The one who originated the 
-^name placed it on a sound basis ;[for hirdman means the 
same as keeper and guardian^ and those who wish to 
possess this title rightfully should be true keepers and 
guardians both of the king's person and of all his king- 
ship. They should guard the bounds of equity among all 
the men of the realm, wherever they are present when 
suits at law are heard. They should also observe good 
and courtly behavior and every useful custom, for they 
are at all times nearest the king in all matters. They 
guard the king's life and person both night and day; 
they are always about the king at the table when he 
eats and drinks, at public assemblies, and at all general 
gatherings, like near kinsmen. 

These men ought of right to be addressed as lords by 
all men who bear lesser titles than they do; for they are, 


in a sense, stewards of the realm, if they observe the 
customs that are suited to their title^They should be 
chosen from all classes and not from wealthy or dis- 
tinguished families only;]but those who are chosen to 
this dignity should be perfect in all things, both in an- 
cestry and wealth, and in nobility of mind and courtesy, 
but above all in conduct. They ought, furthermore, be- 
fore all others to observe righteousness in every form, 
so that they may be able to discern clearly what should 
be loved as belonging to honor and good deportment I 
and what should be shunned as leading to dishonor ano/ / 
shamejFor wherever they are present, the eyes of all 
men are turned upon their manners and behavior; all 
incline their ears to their words; and all expect, as they 
ought, to find them so much more excellent than other 
men in deeds and deportment as they stand nearer the 
king in service and regard than his other men. And if 
these men wish by right to enjoy the titles which are 
given them along with the housecarle name, they must 
shun vii1ftfl.n'ty pnr| r i]ffcnpgg; they must also, more than 
other men, avoid many things which a foolish^ desire 
might suggest. For many things become a disgrace both 
in words and deeds to well-bred men, which are not a 
disgrace to the vulgar who behave in that way; where- 
fore such men must keep watch over their tongues and 
their behavior. 

It also frequently happens that well trained envoys 
from other lands come to visit the king and his court; 
and the more polished they arelthe more carefully they 
observe the royal service as well as the manners of the 
king and his courtiers and all the customs that prevail 


at the courtjvOn returning to their own lands, they will 
describe the customs and relate the happenings which 
they saw or heard at the court to which they were sentj 
But_all the rumors^ that travel to other lands and are 
circulated about a lord, if they be truthful, will usually 
either bring him ridicule and contumely or be turned to 

Jn's hLQL!Ii^ a y a l so frequently come to pass that the 
kings themselves need to meet in conference to discuss 
such rules and arrangements as must be kept jointly by 
(^the kingdoms. *MVherever kings meet, there the best 
5 men are always assembled ;} for the kings bring their 
chief men with them to such conferences: archbishops, 
bishops, earls, landedmen, and hirdmen or knights. 
And the conduct and breeding of those who assemble 
are carefully noted, first the manners of the mighty ones, 
/* and then those of all the rest^for everyone watches 
? closely the behavior of all the othersV^Lnd if one of the 
kings or one of his principal men is round indecorous, 
he soon becomes the subject of ridicule and contempt 
and is regarded as a common churl And if a king's ret- 
inue is found to be poorly trained and is lacking in 
polish, especially if the service of the king's apartments 
is not performed in a comely and proper manner, then 
the king himself is pronounced unfit^for it will be held 
that if he himself were polite and perfect in manners, 
all would acquire good breeding from him. Cpnsegfuenlly 
it^is possible for a courtly chief to suffer great shame 
amHncIecent man; wherefore it is very 

* Such meetings of two or three of the kings of the North were occasionally 
held all through the later middle ages. The conferences were often held at 
some point near the mouth of the Gb'ta River, on the southwest coast of 
modern Sweden. See above, p. 30. 


important that those who wish to bear a comely and 
honorable title in the royal presence should be well in- 
formed as to what is becoming or unbecoming. For one 
cannot hope for great honors from a king, if he has at 
any time disgraced him where many honorable men 
were assembled and where it seemed very important to 
maintain the king's honor, which is every where, 3or a 7 
king must nowhere suffer shame .jHeedlessness and evil j 
conduct are therefore ill becoming to a man, if they 
bring him shame and enmity and cause him to lose his 
honorable name, his good repute, and his fair service, 
even though life and limb be spared. And he can even 
bring such deep dishonor upon his king that with many 
of his kindred he will be made to suffer a well deserved 
but ignominious death. Such grades there are both in 
the duties and in the titles at the royal court as you 
have now heard described. But if it seems to you that 
V everything has not yet been thoroughly examined, you 
may inquire further, if you like. 





Son. It seems to me that we should not fail to con- 
tinue this discussion and I shall now direct my remarks 
and questions toward some theme that may help me to 
see more clearly how one, who comes to seek honors, 
should appear in the king's presence and how he must 
afterwards demean himself in order to attain all those 


distinctions of which you have just told. Now it may 
happen that I shall want to fare to court and join the 
king's service; for since my father and my kinsmen 
served the king before me and gained honor and high 
esteem for their service, it is likely that I shall wish to 
do what my kinsmen achieved before me.? Now inas- 
much as that is likely, I want to ask you to tell me how 
I ought to begin my speech when I come to seek audi- 
ence with a king. State it as clearly as if you were to 
accompany me to the royal presence, and inform me as 
to my gestures, my dress, my manner of speech and all 
matters of deportment that are becoming in the king's 
company. Now this time I have asked as I thought best; 
but even though I have inquired less wisely than I 
ought, kindly do as before, giving thought to the ques- 
tions on my part and to the replies from your side. 

Father. Your questions on this subject are not so un- 
wise that one may not very well answer them; for many 
have need to make such inquiries, if they mean to have 
their suits brought up before lords and to have them 
planned as carefully as need be. Now I shall try to clear 
up these matters that you have asked about, stating 
what seems most truthful and advisable. When you 
come, then, to where the king resides, intending to be- 
come his man jl you should inquire carefully who the 
men are in the king's company that are best able to 
present men's business to the king in such a way that 
their speeches please him the most^As soon as you have 
learned who they are, you must first make their ac- 
/ A quaintance and cultivate their friendship; after that 
\\make your errand known and ask them to undertake 



your suit. If they undertake your business, they can 
best find time and occasion for audience and speech 
with the king, as they often have speech with him/If O 
you are to present your request at a time when the king f r y 
is at the table, get sure information whether he is in 7* , 

good spirits and pleasant humor?! If you should observe/ 
that his disposition is somewhat irritable, or that he is 
displeased about something, or that he has such im- 
portant affairs to consider that you think your business 
for that reason cannot be taken up, then let your suit 
rest for the time being and seek to find the king in better 
humor some other day. But if you find that he is in 
merry mood and has no business to take up of such 
importance that you may not very well state your 
errand/ wait, nevertheless, till he has nearly finished 
his meaLy 

Your costume you should plan beforehand in such a 
way that you come fully dressed in good apparel, the 
smartest that you have, and wearing fine trousers and 
shoes. You must not come without your coat; and also 
wear a mantle, the best that you have. For trousers 
always select cloth of a brown dye. It seems quite proper 
also to wear trousers of black fur, but not of any other 
sort of cloth, unless it be scarlet. Your coat should be 
of brown color or green or red, and all such clothes are 
good and proper. Your linen should be made of good 
linen stuff, but with little cloth used; your shirt should 
be short, and all your linen rather light. Your shirt 
should be cut somewhat shorter than your coat; for no 
man of taste can deck himself out in flax or hemp. Be- 
fore you enter the royal presence be sure to have your 


hair and beard carefully trimmed according to the fash- 
ions of the court when you join the same. When I was 
at court it was fashionable to have the hair trimmed 
short just above the earlaps and then combed down as 
each hair would naturally lie; but later it was cut shorter 
in front above the eyebrows. It was the style at that 
f*l^ r time to wear a short beard and a small moustache ;(but 

&'t * ) later the cheeks were shaved according to the German 

2 S 

c^ A** 5 ] mode; * and I doubt that any style will ever come which 
/ is more becoming or more suitable in warfare. ^J 

Now when you seem to be in proper state to appear 
before the king both as to dress and other matters, and 
-if you come at a suitable time and have permission from 
the doorkeeper to enter, you must have your^pming^ 
planned in such a way that some capable servant can 
accompany you. But though you are both allowed to 
enter, do not let him follow you farther than inside the 
door or, at the farthest, up to the staller's seat, and 
^"^ Cleave him there to keep your mantleQLeave your mantle 
j behind when you go before the king and be careful to 
J have your hair brushed smooth, and your beard combed 
/ with care. You must have neither hat nor cap nor other 
covering on your head; for one must appear before lords 
1 with uncovered head and ungloved hands, with a blithe 
V face and with limbs and body thoroughly bathedL/You 
should also have the men with you who are to jpresent 
your suit. Form the habit of holding your head up and 
your whole body erect when walking; strike a dignified 
gait, but do not walk too slowly. 

* It is impossible to determine what style of beard this jaftarskegg was; if we 
may judge from contemporary German illustrations, the German mode was 
a smooth-shaven face. See also Weiss, Kostumekunde, II, 581. 


When you come into the king's presence, bow humbly 
before him and address him in these words: " God give 
you a good day, my lord king ! " If the king is at the_ 
table when you appear before him, be careful not to 
lean against the king's board, as so many a sim 
does; and above all do not lean forward across 
mannerly churls do, but remain standing far enough 
away from it so that the service belonging to the royal 
table may have sufficient Space to pass between the 
table and yourself. But if the king is not at the table, 
approach his seat only so near as to leave abundant 
space for all the service between yourself and the foot- 
stools that are before the king's seat. When standing 
before the king, you should dispose of your hands in 
such a way that the thumb and forefinger of the right -^ 
will grasp the left wrist; and then let your hands drop j 
slowly before you as seems most comfortable. There- 
upon the men chosen for that purpose shall present 
your errand to the king. And if fortune allows your suit 
to prosper immediately according to your wishes, you 
shall go to the king's hand and thereafter enter the 
fellowship of the hird according to the customs which 
those who plead your case will teach you. But if the 
king makes promise and fixes a day when you are to 
appear and the matter is to be settled, it must rest till 
that time. If the king postpones the decision, saying as 
is not unlikely: 'II know nothing about this man, either 
as to repute or mannersjand cannot reply at once to 
his request but must first observe clearly his ways of 
thinking and doing; " then the matter is closed for the 
time being. But you may, if you are so disposed, con- 


tinue your suit and try to find a more convenient time, 
when your affairs may have a more favorable outcome. 
However, while you are seeking to gain the king's favor, 
I you will need above all to keep close to the best and 
most discreet men, and you should often be seen in the 
, $ Q \ company of those who are dearest to the king. But pay 
all the necessary outlay out of your own means, how- 
ever long this probation may last, unless you should 
sometime be invited by the king's order to his tables. 
And let it not be true in your case as is true in the case 
of many an unwise man, that the more often you find 
yourself invited, the more you begin to long for an- 
other's fare, lest upright men come to regard you as 
selfish and impertinent, and those become hostile who 
were formerly your friends and comrades. Walk up- 
rightly, therefore, and be heedful in all such matters, 
lest evil befall you through lack of foresight. 



Son. If you permit, I will ask to be allowed a few 
words in this discussion. On what do you base your 
statement that it is considered good deportment among 
princes for a man to come bareheaded and without a 
mantle when he comes to seek audience with them. If 
anyone did thus in the country, the mob would say that 
the man was a fool to run about in that way without a 
cloak like a ninny. 

Father. I told you a little earlier in our conversation 
that many a man goes about in ignorance as to what is 


fitting in a king's house, because many things look stu- 
pid to the multitude which are considered proper in the 
presence of kings and other great men. Now you shall 
know of a truth, not only that it is fitting to come with- 
out a mantle when one appears for the first time before 
a king, but also that in many places it is as proper to 
wear one's mantle in the royal presence as to leave it 
off. But since you have asked the reason why it should 
seem more decorous to appear before princes without 
one's mantle than to wear it, it might be a more than 
sufficient answer to say that it is the custom wherever 
well bred men appear in the presence of mighty lords 
to come without a mantle, and that jyhoever is ignorant 
of that custom is there called a/churljl 

But these facts may serve asrwr'additional answer: 
if a man appears before magnatesL wrapped in his cloak, "1 
he shows in that way that he regards himself as an/ 
equal to them in whose presence he is; for he comes 1 
clad in all his finery like a lord, and acts as if he need f 
not serve any one. But if he lays aside his cloak, he 
shows that he is ready for service, if the one who is en- 
titled to receive rather than to do service is willing to 
accept itTJLikewise there are instances of this other fact, ' 
which often necessitates caution, that many are envious 
of a king; and if his enemy is rash and bold, he can in- 
deed come before the king with hidden perils and mur- 
derous weapons, if he is allowed to wear his mantle; but 
he cannot easily accomplish this if he comes without his 
cloak. It is therefore evident that he was a wise man 
who first ordained the formality that a man should ap- 
pear without a mantle before great lords and especially 



before kings. For that custom has since led to greater 
security against secret treason which could easily be 
hidden under the cloak, if it were worn. The custom 
has also promoted fair dealing and concord among men, 
for in this matter they all enjoy the same rights; and 
this being the accepted custom, one is not suspected or 
searched more than others. 



Son. Although this custom seemed strange to me be- 
fore I heard your comment, it now looks as if it were 
founded on good sense and is not to be dispensed with; 
and therefore it will be well if you will continue to re- 
count and point out to me all the forms of speech and 
conduct which one needs to observe in the presence of 
kings and other great men. 

Father. Keep carefully in mind, while in the king's 
presence, that you ought not to engage in conversation 
with other men and thus fail to pay heed to everything 
that the king says, lest it happen, if he addresses a re- 
mark to you, that you have to ask what he said. For it 
always looks ill for one to be so inattentive that the 
words spoken to him must be repeated before he can 
hear; and it looks particularly bad in the presence of 
important men. Still, it can very often come to pass, 
when one is in a lord's presence, that other men crowd 
about him and ask questions of many sorts; Sometimes 
this is due to the stupidity of those who do thus, but 


often the reason may be that he who acts in this way 
would not be displeased if something should be found 
to be censured in him who has a plea to make.-* 

Now if it should happen while you are standing be- 
fore a king that some one in the meantime should try 
to address a question or other remark to you, have 
friendly words ready on your lips and reply in this wise: 
" Wait a moment, my good man, while I listen a while 
to what the king says; later I shall be pleased to talk 
with you as long as you wish." If he still tries to have 
further words with you, speak no more to him then un- 
til the king has finished his remarks. If it now should 
happen that the king has a few words to say to you, 
be very careful in yourcanswer not to use plural terms O */w 
in phrases that refer to yourself, though you do use the 
plural, as is proper, in all phrases referring to the king 
But even more you need to beware of what fools fre- 
quently do, namely using the plural in phrases referring 
to yourself, while you employ the singular in those that 
refer to the king. And if the king should happen to 
speak a few words to you which you did not catch, and 
you have to ask what he said, do not say " Eh ? " or 
" What ? " or make a fuss about it, but use only the 
word " Sire; " or if you prefer to ask in more words: 
" My lord, be not offended if I ask what you said to 
me, but I did not quite catch it." But see to it that 
it happens in rare cases only that the king need to re- 
peat his remarks to you more than once before you 
grasp them. 





Son. On what ground is it thought better to phrase 
all remarks addressed to lords in the plural than in the 
singular ? When one directs a prayer to God, Who is 
higher and more excellent than all others, the expres- 
sions that refer to Him are all phrased in the singular; 
for everyone who makes his prayer to God speaks in 
this wise: "Almighty God, my Lord, hear Thou my 
prayer and be Thou more merciful toward me than I 
deserve." But I hear no one form his words in this wise: 
" My Lord, hear my prayer and deal better with me 
because of Your mercy than I deserve." Now I am not 
sure that my question is a very wise one; still, since you 
have allowed me to ask whatever I desire to know, I 
shall look for an informing reply as before, even though 
I ask like a child. 

Father. I shall indeed be glad to explain everything 
to you as far as I am able; but I do not see why you are 
searching into this matter so closely that one shall even 
have to give reasons for the choice of terms in holy 
prayer. For the teachers of the church are far better 
able to interpret matters that belong to divinity than I. 
But since every question looks toward a reply, I shall 
explain this to you in a few words, as it seems most 
reasonable to me; and I shall take up first what seems 
to me the most important. Now I believe the terms used 
in sacred prayers are chosen so that we call upon the 
divine name in the singular rather than in the plural, 
in order that all who believe in God may clearly under- 


stand that we believe in one true God and not in nu- 
merous idols like the heathen who formerly called upon ^ 
seven gods. For they held that one god ruled the heavO 
ens; another, the heavenly bodies; a third, the earth f 
and its fruits; a fourth, the sea and its waters; a fifth, the ^ 
air and the winds; a sixth, learning and eloquence; a 
seventh, death and hell.] Now we should honor the one ^ 
true God Whom all creation serves and call upon Him 
in singular terms, lest false gods obtain our worship, if 
when calling upon the divine name we use plural terms, 
as if there were more than one God. There is this added 
reason, that simple^njjnded folk may conclude tl 
there are more gods than one if His name be invoked in 
plural terms. Thus it is rightfully and wisely ordered, 
so that a simple and holy faith shall have no cause to 
stray away from the true highway. Now if you do not 
fully grasp this speech, we shall find more to say; but 
if it has led you to clearer insight, we may as well direct 
our thoughts to the other matters that you have asked 



Son. These things seem very clear to me and it ap- 
pears both reasonable and necessary that one should 
use the singular rather than the plural in addressing 
God, lest the true faith be debased by the use of plural 
expressions and the cunning adversaries obtain the wor- 
ship that a simple and true faith refuses them. But 
now I wish to have you turn to what I asked about the 
mighty men of this world, and explain why it seems 
better to address them in plural than in singular terms. 


Father. It might be a sufficient answer to state that 
it seems better to address princes in plural than in singu- 
lar terms for the reason that well-bred people have found 
it so from the beginning; and it has since become a cus- 
tom among all discreet and courteous men, and is done 
in honor of those who are addressed and are entitled to 
a deferential mode of address. But this is the thought 
which they had in mind who originated these expres- 
sions, that men of power are not like all others who have 
t,}} only themselves and their households to care for and 

(^ are responsible for a few men only.(jFor chieftains are 
2 responsible for all those who are subject to them in serv- 
^ ice or authority ,~Jand they have not only one man's 
answer on the tongue but have indeed to answer for 
many. And when a good chief departs this life, it is not 
as if one man is lost, but it is a great loss to all those who 
received support and honors from him; and they seem 
to be of less consequence after they have lost their chief 
than before while he was living, unless one shall come 
into his stead who will be as gracious to them as the 
departed one was. Now since great lords both maintain 
the honor of many and have great cares and liabilities 
on their account, it is surely proper to honor them by 
using the plural forms of address in all speech that those 
who are humbler and of less consequence may have to 
address to them. But there remain those things which 
were learned or thought of when this custom was first 
ordained: that kings and other powerful men are not 
alone in their deliberations but are associated with many 
S other wise and distinguished men;/and therefore, when 
> a chief is addressed in plural terms, it may be thought 


that the words are not addressed to the king alone, but 
also to all those who sit in his councils as his advisers/] 

In my last speech I also mentioned that you must 
have care never to use the plural in expressions referring 
to yourself, lest you seem to regard yourself as on an 
equality with the one to whom you are speaking, if he 
is of higher rank than you areJAnd even when you " 
talk with an equal or with a humbler man than you/ 
are, it is not, fitting for you to honor yourself with?^ 
plural termsT^ou must also beware when in the presence/ _ fc/b \ 
of princes, lest you become too verbose in your talk; for / 
great lords and all discreet men are displeased with v? 
prolixity and regard it as tedious and worthless folly^) f*l, *e 
^Further, if you have a matter to present, whether it 1 
concerns yourself or others, present it clearly but with ^ 
quick utterance and in the fewest possible wordsjTforx 
constantly there comes before kings and other lords 
such a great mass of business respecting the manifold 
needs of their subjects, that they have neither time nor 
inclination to hear a case discussed in a long, detailed 
speech.) And it is very evident that, if a man is clever 
and fluent in speech, he will find it easy to state his case 
in a few rapidly spoken words, so that the one who is 
to reply will grasp it readily. Then, too, if one is not an 
orator and, even more, is awkward in speech, the briefer 
the errand on his tongue, the better it is; for a man can 
somehow manage to get through with a few words and 
thus conceal his awkwardness from those to whom it is 
unknown. But when a man makes an elaborate effort, 
he will surely seem the more unskilful the longer he 





Now such things there are and others like them into 
which a man, if he wishes to be called well-bred, must 
get some insight and which he ought to learn at home 
before he goes very often to have conversation with great 
lords. And from all this you will see how courtly and 
cultured they ought to be in their manners and conduct 
who are constantly to be near a king in all manner of 
honorable intercourse, since it has appeared to knowing 
men as if one is scarcely prepared to come into the king's 

^presence to converse with him unless he has mastered 
all these things that we have now talked about, except 
he should be a perfect boor, and not to be reckoned or 
classed among well-bred people but among the very 

Churls. Still, you must know this, too, that there are 
many who have spent a long time at court, and know 
but little or nothing about these things. And this is 
true of those who bear the hirdman's name and should 
be very close to the king, as well as of those who have 
lesser titles and rarely see the king. It must have been 
of such as these last mentioned that you spoke earlier 
in our conversation when you remarked that those who 
came from the court seemed no more polished or cul- 
tured, or even less, than those who had never been at 
urt. To that I replied, and with truth, that everyone 
who wishes to be proper in his conduct needs to guard 
against such ignorance as they are guilty of, who know 
not the meaning of shame or honor or courtesy, and 
learn nothing from the conduct of good and courtly men, 
even though they see it daily before their eyes. 




Son. It is a fact that I have met some who, though 
they came from court, either concealed the sort of man- 
ners that you have now discussed, if they knew them, 
or had, as I remarked, never gained insight into such 
matters. Now it is not strange that those who remain 
at home in ignorance or are not of an inquiring mind 
know little or nothing about such things; but it is more 
to be wondered at, as you have just said, that many re- 
main a long time with the king and close to him in serv- 
ice, and still do not learn either what courtesy means 
or what courtly manners are. Therefore, since you have 
warned me to beware of such ignorance, I want to ask 
you how this can be and how a king who is well-bred 
and courteous can be willing to keep men about his per- 
son to serve him, who refuse to live according to good 
manners. For I have thought that, if a king is courteous 
and refined, all would imitate him in decorum, and that 
he would not care much for churlish men. 

Father. It may happen sometimes that a husband- 
man who is accustomed to eat good bread and clean 
food has to mix chaff or bran with his flour so as to make 
his bread and that of his household last longer than 
common; and at such times he must, though reluctant, 
partake of such food as is set before him in the same 
thankful spirit as earlier, when he was given good and 
clean food; and such cases result from grinding neces- 
sity, that is, from crop failures. But scarcity arises in 


many ways. Sometimes there is dearth of grain, even 
when the earth continues to yield grass and straw, 
though at times it gives neither. There are times, too, 
when the earth gives good and sufficient fruitage, and 
yet no one is profited, for dearth is in the air, and bad 
weather ruins the crops at harvest time. Sometimes 
smut * causes trouble, though the crop is plentiful and 
the weather good. It can also happen at times that all 
vegetation flourishes at its best, and there is no dearth; 
an d y et there may be great scarcity on some [man's 
farm or among his cattle, or in the ocean, or in the fresh 
waters, or in the hunting forests/jSometimes when 
everything goes wrong, it may even come to pass that 
all these failures occur together; and then bran will be 
as dear among men as clean flour was earlier, when times 
were good, or even dearer than that. All these forms of 
dearth which I have now recounted must be regarded 
as great calamities in every land where they occur; and 
it would mean almost complete ruin if they should all 
appear at the same time and continue for a period of 
three years. 

There remains another kind of dearth which alone 
is more distressing than all those which I have enu- 
merated: dearth may come upon the people who in- 
habit the land, or, what is worse, there may come failure 
in the morals, the intelligence, or the counsels of those 
who are to govern the land. For something can be done 
to help a country where there is famine, if capable men 
are in control and there is prosperity in the neighboring 
lands. But if dearth comes upon the people or the morals 

* Skjafiak. The translation is uncertain; possibly some sort of weed is meant. 


of the nation, far greater misfortunes will arise. For one 
cannot buy from other countries with money either 
morals or insight, if what was formerly in the land 
should be lost or destroyed. But even though there be 
failure of harvest on a peasant's farm, which has always 
been good and which he and his kinsmen before him 
have owned a long time, he will not take such an angry 
dislike to it that, caring no longer what becomes of it, 
he will proceed forthwith to dispose of it; much rather 
will he plan to garner and store grass and chaff as care- 
fully as he once garnered good and clean grain, or even 
more so, and in this way provide for his household as 
best he can, until God wills that times shall improve. 
In this way, too, a king must act[if he should suffer the / [^ 
misfortune of dearth upon the morals or the intelligence 
^hjs_realm^ he mujstjiot renounce the kingdom^ but 
necessity may force him to rate the men of little wit as 
high as the wise were rated earlier while the kingdom 
stood highest in prosperity and morals. ISometimes pun- 
ishment will serve and sometimes prayer; something 
may also be gained through instruction; but the land 
must be maintained in every way possible until God 
wills that times shall improve. 



Son. I see clearly now that troubles may befall men 
in many ways, the mighty as well as the humble, kings 
as well as cotters. But as you have given me this free- 
dom and have allowed me to question you in our con- 


versation, I shall ask you to enlarge somewhat fully 
upon this speech before we take up another. What is 
your opinion as to the causes of such a severe dearth as 
may come upon the minds of men, so that all is ruined 
at the same time, insight and national morals ? And do 
you think such losses should be traced to the people 
who inhabit the realm or to the king and the men who 
manage the state with him ? 

Father. What you have now asked about has its origin 

in various facts anji occurrences of a harmful character. 

I believe, however, thaJLsuch misf ortune&jsyould Tarely 

appear among the people who inhabit and till the land, 

jf the men ^ n povern the realm were discreet an^ the 

But when God, because of the 

sins of the people, determines to visit a land with a pun- 
ishment that means destruction to morals and intellect, 
He will carry out His decision promptly, though in vari- 
ous ways, as soon as He wills it. Instances of this have 
occurred frequently and in various places, where trouble 
has come when a chieftain,, who possessed both wealth 
and wisdom and who had been highly honored by the 
king, having sat in his council and shared largely with 
him in the government, departed this life leaving four 
or five sons in his place, all in their early youth or child- 
hood. Then the king and the whole realm have suffered 
immediate injury: the king has lost a good friend, an 
excellent adviser, and a strong bulwark^Next the man's 
possessions are divided into five parts, and all his proj- 
ects are disturbedjHis household sinks in importance, 
since each of the sons has but a fifth of all the power 
that the father derived from his means while he was 


living, and has even less of his insight and knowledge 
of manners, being a mere child. Greater still will the 
change be if he leaves no son at his decease but as many 
daughters as I have now counted sons; but the very x 
greatest change will come if neither sons nor daughters 
survive him; for then it is likely that his possessions will 
be split up among distant relatives, unless a near kins- 
man be found. 

Now if many such events should occur at one time / 

in a kingdom/ vigor, would disappear from the king's 7 - 
council,, though he himself be very capable.! And if itj 
should happen (for there are cases of such events as 
well as of the others) that a king depart this life and 
leave a young son who succeeds to the paternal king- 
dom, though a mere child, and young counsellors come 
into the places of the old and wise advisers who were 
before, if all these things that we have now recounted 
should happen at one time, then it is highly probable 
that all the government of the realm would be stricken 
with dearth, and that, when the government goes to 
ruin, the morals of the nation would also fail to some 

There still remains the one contingency which is most 
likely to bring on such years of dearth as produce the 
greatest evils; and unfortunately there are no fewer 
instances of such issues than of those that we have 
just mentioned. If a king who has governed a kingdom 
should happen to die, and leave behind three or four 
sons, and the men who are likely to be made counsellors 
be all young and full of temerity, though wealthy and 
of good ancestry, since they have sprung from families 



that formerly conducted the government with the king, 
now if a kingdom should come into such unfortunate 
circumstances as have been described, with several heirs 
at the same time, and the evil counsel is furthermore 
taken to give them all the royal title and dignity, then 
that realm must be called a rudderless ship or a decayed 
estate; it may be regarded almost as a ruined kingdom, 
for it is sown with the worst seeds of famine and the 
grains of unpeacefFor the petty kings, having rent the 
realm asunder, will quickly divide the loyalty of the 
people who inhabit the land, both of the rich and of the 
poor; and each of these lords will then try to draw friends 
about him, as many as he can.lThereupon each will be- 
gin to survey his realm as to population and wealth; 
and when he recalls what his predecessor possessed, each 
will feel that he has too little. Then the friends, too, of 
each one will remind him of and tell about how much 
the king who ruled before him possessed in wealth and 
numbers and what great undertakings he set out upon; 
and it seems as if in every suggestion each one tries to 
urge his lord to seize upon more than he already has. 
After that these lords begin to treasure those riches that 
are of the least profit to the kingdom, namely(Sovy~T) 
trivial matters are carefully garnered and great wrath 
is blown out of them. Soon the love of kinship begins to 
-decay; he who was earlier called friend and relative is 
now looked upon as an evil-doer, for soon each one be- 
gins to be suspicious of the others. But when suspicion 
and evil rumors begin to appear, wicked men think that 
good times are at hand, and they all bring out their 
plows. Before long the seeds of hostility begin to sprout, 



avarice and iniquity flourish, and men grow bold in 
manslaying, high-handed robbery, and theft. 

Now if it happens that one of these princes should 
wish to punish the aforesaid vices in his kingdom, the 
wicked take refuge in the service of some other master; 
and, though they have been driven from home because 
of their misdeeds, they pretend to have come in inno- 
cence to escape the cruel wrath of their lord. The one to 
whom they have fled gives protection in temerity rather 
than in mercy; for he wishes to acquire friends in the 
other's realm, who may prove useful to himself and 
hostile to the other in case they should come to disa- 
greement. But those who had to flee because of their 
evil conduct and lawbreaking soon begin to show hos- 
tility toward the lord whose subjects they formerly 
were and to rouse as much enmity as they can between 
him and the one to whom they have come. They take 
revenge for their exile by carrying murder, rapine, and 
plundering into the kingdom, as if they were guiltless 
and all the blame lay with the lord. Soon immorality 
begins to multiply, for God shows His wrath in this 
way, that where the four boundaries of the territories 
of these chiefs touch, he places a moving wheel which 
turns on a restless axle. After that each one forgets all 
brotherly love, and kinship is wrecked ^Nothing is now 
spared, for whenever the people are divided into many 
factions through loyalty to different chiefs, and these 
fall out, themasses will rashly pursue their desires, and 
the morals of the nation go to ruin. For then everyone 
' makes his own moral code according to his own way of 
thinking; and no one fears punishment any longer when 
the rulers fall out and are weakened thereby."? 



When each one looks only to his own tricks and wiles, 
great misfortunes of all kinds will come upon the land. 
Murder and quarrels will multiply; many women will 
.) be carried off as captives of war and violated, while 
vd others will be ensnared and seduced into fornication; 
children will be begotten in adultery and unlawful co- 
habitation. Some take their kinswomen or sisters-in-law, 
while others seduce wives away from their husbands; 
and thus all forms of whoredom are committed and de- 
generacy will come to light in all the generations that 
are begotten in such immorality. Every form of crime 
will be committed. Peasants and subjects become de- 
fiant and disobedient; they are not careful to avoid 
crimes, and though they commit many, they atone for 
few only. Trusting in their own strength and numbers, 
they attend seditious meetings; and they choose as 


their part what is likely to bring a dangerous outcome, 
4 ffor they place all men on the same leveOthe discreet 
and decent ones with the coarse and stupid, and they 
screen foolish and iniquitous men from punishment, 
though these deserve it every day. And this they do 
either by swearing falsely and giving false witness in 
their behalf, or by making a foolhardy and crafty de- 
fence at the court of trial, so that the guilty have to 
answer for nothing before the kingsmen who assist the 
king in carrying out the law. [For the unthinking mob 
seem to imagine that the king was appointed to be their 
opponent ;jand a foolish man regards himself fortunate 
and highly favored in the eyes of thoughtless people, if 
he can maintain himself for some time in opposition to 
royal authority and the prescriptions of law. And if 


such men have disputes to settle anywhere, the wicked 
will support the foolish one, so that he may prevail in 
the controversy; thus the upright and the peaceful are 
robbed of their dues. If the greedy or the quarrelsome 
is slain because of his avarice, his stupid kinsmen who 
survive him will feel that their family has been greatly 
injured and impaired thereby; and if at some earlier time 
there was slain one of their family who was both wise 
and peaceful, and whose wisdom and even temper 
proved useful to many, and if this one was atoned for 
with a payment to the kindred, they will now ask as 
large a fine for the unwise as what was formerly taken 
for the prudent one; otherwise there will be revenge by 

But when God sees that such misjudgments, born of 
perversity and unwisdom, are decreed, He turns the in- 
justice back upon those who first began to pass unfair 
and unfounded judgments. For as soon as the foolish or 
the avaricious sees that he is held in high regard, even 
more than the wise with his even temper, and that his 
avarice and folly are turned to honor and advance 
he will do according to his nature and the custom of all ) 
foolish men: he will become more grasping and will 
operate more widely in his greed. And when the mo 
begins to regard that as worthy of praise and renown 
which is evil and should be hated by all, the second 
and the third will learn it and the one after the other, 
until it becomes common custom; and he alone will be 
counted a worthy man who is grasping and knows how 
to detract unjustly from another's honor to his own 
profit. After that the one deals greedily with the other, 


till misfortune turns against the very ones whose folly 
and wickedness originally began these evil practices. 
For one will finally bring evil upon another, wounds or 
other afflictions, and thus all old and lawful ordinances 
must decay /Now everyone holds that the king and 
other great lords should temper the severity of the laws 
with mercy; but none of the commoners seems willing 
to deal justly with another fjindeed, each would rather 
demand more than what he was entitled to from the 
beginningfBut when all lawful ordinances and right 
) punishments are ignored and unlaw and malice take 
<S their place, and this condition becomes so general that 
/ God is wearied, He applies the punishment that is able 
V to reach all, since the guilt has touched all^He throws 
/ hatred and enmity down among the chiefs who are 
j placed in control of the realm; when things go ill there 
/ may also come failure of crops; and the chiefs soon begin 
I to quarrel, for each finds complaints in the other's king- 
V dom, which are finally settled with slaughter and strife. 
But whenever famine, murder, and warfare begin to 
arrive together and visit all those who inhabit the realm, 
the kingdom will be brought near to utter weakness and 
ruin, if the period should continue any length of time. 
Though laws and useful customs may have been ob- 
served and maintained to some extent in the times men- 
tioned earlier, they will be wholly forgotten whenever 
such times appear as those that we have just now de- 
scribed; for in warfare the best men and those of the 
noblest kinship are destroyed. But failure of crops, 
rapine, and unpeace of every sort that may then ap- 
pear will rob those of wealth who are in possession of 


it and have acquired it honestly, while he gets it who can 
most readily deprive others by theft and plunder. And 
when such a time comes upon a nation, it will suffer 
loss in good morals and capable men, wealth and se- 
curity, and every blessing as long as God permits the 
plague to continue. But He metes out according to His 
mercy, for He is able to save such a country, when He 
finds that the people have been sufficiently chastised 
for their sins. Now you can imagine how highly moral 
the people will become/if such a nation is saved by GooVs 
grace and again brought under the rule of a single 
monarch, and how prosperous the realm may become 
in the period immediately following such an unrest as 
I have just described. For then the kingdom, was rent, 
the morals of the people were confused, and their loyalty 
was divided among a number of lords, each one of whom 
was striving to contrive and employ against the others 
cunning, deception, disloyalty, and evil in every form.i/ / 



Son. It is perfectly evident that if all these misfor- 
tunes should befall a kingdom and the period of trouble 

* In this chapter the author has summed up the history of Norwegian king- 
ship in the twelfth century, when minorities were frequent and joint king- 
ships almost the rule. Three boys were proclaimed kings in 1103; two kings 
shared the power in 1130; the royal title fell to three children in 1136. At no 
time was the realm actually divided, the theory being that the administra- 
tion and the revenues might be divided, while the monarchy remained a unit. 
The century was a period of great calamities; pretenders were numerous; and 
civil war raged at intervals. For a fuller discussion of the theory of Norwegian 
kingship in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, see above, pp. 35 ff. 


were to continue for some time, the realm would decline. 
There surely must be instances of such an issue, and we 
may safely conclude that wherever such events come to 
pass, there will be much evil and manifold misfortunes 
before they cease. I also see clearly that if the morals or 
laws of a kingdom are undermined by such troubles as 
you have described, even though God should purpose to 
rescue it finally from distress and unpeace and bring 
it again under one ruler after such troublous times, the 
people who survive are likely to be both wicked and 
vicious; and there will surely be need, as you have said, 
of good instruction and at times even of very severe 
punishment. Furthermore, even if the kingdom did pos- 
sess tolerable morals for a time before the unpeace came, 
he who is to undertake the government, though he be 
very wise, will need to use great determination and 
severity for a long period, if the realm is to be replaced 
on its earlier footing. 

I have been deeply interested in your discussion of 
what may bring the greatest damage to a kingdom (and 
it may be rendered worthless through loss of morals, 
population, and wealth, if such conditions should arise) ; 
and I have now been sufficiently informed as to how 
matters may shape themselves, if misfortune means to 
come; and I see clearly what great losses and damage 
may follow such events. Now it seems to me that we 
have dwelt rather long upon facts which must bring dis- 
tress to everyone who wishes to be reputed a moral man 
(wherefore all, both rich and poor, should implore the 
Lord to let no such times come in their days), and I will 
therefore return to what I began with and ask you to 


point out the manners and customs which you think 
would be becoming to me, if I were employed in the 
royal service, no matter what times might come, though 
I will pray the Lord that as long as I live there may be 
peace and quiet and prosperous times. 

Father. No one knows how God will order such things 
during the days of any man's lifetimer*But if a man 

V -- 

determines to be a kingsman and there happens to be 
much distress and many disasters at the time because 
of too many rulers or unpeace in some form, he must 
be careful to join the service of the one who has obtained 
the power in the most legal manner and is most likely 
to observe the customs that rightful and well-bred kings 
have observed before his day.^Ie is then least likely to 
incur danger in accounting for his service, whether he 
be called to account in this world or in the next. But 
you have asked what customs you should observe if you 
were bound to a royal service, and on that point I can 
very well inform you. 

This should be the first principle of all your conduct, 
never to let your heart be wanting in reverence and 
fear of God, to love him above everything else, and next 

to him to love rihteousness. Train 

upright, and temperate in all things 

mind the day of death and guard carefully against vices. 
yRemember that many a man lives but a brief time, y ''<* fiffy 
while his deeds live long after him; and it is of great f> 4*. ^ ^ 
importance what is remembered about him^Some have \ 
reached fame through good deeds, and these always 
live after them, for one's honor lives forever, though 
the man himself be dead. Some win fame by evil deeds 



and these men, though they be dead, bear a burden of 
lasting disgrace when their deeds are recalled/ their 
kinsmen, too, and all their descendants after their days 
have to bear the same dishonor^] Those, however, are 
most numerous who drop away like cattle and are re- 
membered neither for good nor for evil; but you shall 
know of a truth that such is surely not the purpose of 
mankind; for all other creatures were made for the 
pleasure and subsistence of man, while man was created 
to enjoy the glories of both this and the other world, if 
he is to realize the purpose of his creation. ^Every one, 
therefore, while he still lives, should strive to leave a 
few such deeds after him as will cause him to be re- 
membered with favor after he has departed this life. 
But this is above all the duty of kings and other mighty 
chiefs and of all those who seek their society and eivter 
their service; for after that a man is no longer looked 
upon as a churl, but is honored as a governor or a chief; 
and thus he ought to be honored, if he strives to observe 
the customs that are becoming to himself and his dig- 

Take heed lest you vacillate in friendship among 
several chiefs, as fickle men do; for no one who acts thus 
can be firm in purpose.(Love your lord highly and with- 
ut guile as long as you stay in his service, and never 

ek the society or the confidence of his enemies, if you 
wish to remain a man of honor?Above your lord you 
must love God alone, but no other manTj These are the 

ings that you must especially avoid, lest they bring 
you an evil name: perjury and false testimony, brothels, 
drinking bouts^ except in the king's house or in decent 



gatherings, casting dice for silver, lust after bribes, and / 
all other evil covetousness; for these things are a great 
disgrace to every kingsman in this world and his soul 
will be in peril in the other world, if he is found guilty 
of such vices. [Never j^etjlrunk, wherever you are; for 
it may fall out at any time that you will be summoned 
to hear a dispute or to supervise something, or that 
you will have important business of your own to look 
after. Now if such demands should come to a man while 
he is drunk, he will be found wholly incompetent; 
wherefore drunkenness should be avoided by everyone, 
and most of all by kingsmen and others who wish to be 
reputed as worthy men, for such are most frequently 
called to hear suits at law and to other important duties.} 
Moreover, they ought to set good examples for all, as 
some may wish to learn decorum from their behavior. 

If you are a kingsman you must observe the same 
prudence in your address and habits, and do not forget 
this. You should frequently be seen in your lord's p i 
presence/JEarly in the morning you must escort him to 7 
church, if he observes that custom, as by right he ought V" 
to do Jlisten attentively to the service while you are in-/ 
the church, and call devoutly upon God for mercy. 
When the king leaves the church, join him at once and 
keep sufficiently near him to be in sight, so that he may 
be able to call you for any purpose, if he should wish to 
do so. But do not keep so close to him as to make him 
feel annoyed by your presence, when he wishes to speak 
with men whom he has called to converse with him, or 
to discuss such matters as he wishes to keep secret. 
Never show an interest in those affairs which you see 


that your lord wishes to keep to himself, unless he sum- 
mons you to share knowledge with him. But if anything 
should come up that your lord confides to you but wishes 
to have kept secret, keep it carefully in discreet silence; 
do not babble about such affairs as should be hidden in 
your fidelity. 

You must also make a habit of going to the royal 
apartments early in the morning before the king has 
arisen; but be sure to come carefully washed and bathed 
and wearing your best raiment; and wait near the king's 
chamber until he has arisen. Go into the king's cham- 
ber if he calls you, but at no other time; but wherever 
it is that the king summons you, you must come into 
his presence without your mantle. If it is early in the 
morning and you have not seen him before, wish him 
a good day in the words that I have already taught you ; 
but approach only so near as to leave him sufficient 
room to confer with the men who are nearest to him, 
and remain standing there. But if he calls you to come 
nearer, wishing to speak with you in private, then kneel 
before him but only so near that you can readily hear 
f his words; and come without your mantle. (Ho wever,Jf 
vi ~ he invites you to be seated, you may put on your cloak, 

C if you like, and be seated where he indicates/] 

Now when it happens that the king goes out to seek 
diversion, whether it be in town or in the country, or 
wherever he is sojourning, and you and your comrades 
accompany him, the retinue looks best, whether you 
are armed or not, if you walk in equal numbers on either 
side of the king, though never in compact groups. 
Wherever you go he should walk in your midst, and 


you and your companions should be arranged in equal 
numbers before and behind him and on either side. But 
none oi-you -must walk so near the king that he has not 
sufficient space to converse with those whom he sum- 
inons to him, whether he wishes to speak with them 
openly or in private. And even though he call no one to 
have speech with him, keep the order such that there is 
plenty of space around him on all sides. But when the 
king rides out for amusement and you and your com- 
rades accompany him, arrange the order of riding in the 
way that I have suggested about your walking; only 
keep at a greater distance, so that no dirt can splash 
from your horses upon the king, even though you ride 
quite rapidly. 

If the king should call you by name, be careful notA ^ 
to answer by " Eh ? " or " Hm ? " or " What ? " but ) 
rather speak in this wise: " Yes, my lord, I am glad to/ 
listen ! " Also take good heed not to rush away early 
in the morning to eat and drink with greedy and un- 
mannerly men^Wait, as custom demands, till the king's 
meal time, and take your seat at the royal tables, when- 
ever you are present at court^But when the king sits 
down to eat with his hirdmen, these ought all to observe 
good manners and decent order, and the one should 
never run in ahead of the other like an ill-bred man; 
but each ought to know his right place and table com- 
panion ; and the men should sit at the table in the same 
order as when they are out walking. The men should 
go by twos, those who sit .together fio lave their hands, 7 
whether the washing is done within the hall or without^? j 
and then to the table, each in the order and to the seat 



that he knows was assigned to him in the beginning. 
The hirdmen ought to speak in a low tone at the table^ 
so that not a single word will be heard by those who 
sit on either side of the two who wish to converse; let 
each one speak to his partner so softly that none shall 
hear but those who are conversing; then there will be 
good deportment and quiet in the king's hall. You may, 
however, partake freely and quickly of both thejood 
and the drink on the table according to your needs with- 
out suffering any discredit to your manners; but always 
take good heed not to get drunk ^You should cast fre- 
quent glances toward the king's seat to see how his 
service is going forward, and always note carefully when 
the king raises the beaker to his lips, for you must not 
eat while he is drinking. If you have a cup in your hand, 
set it down and do not drink just then.|You must show 
M the queen everywhere the same honor as you show the 
' king according as I have told you^And if the king has 
a guest at his table who ought to be shown the same 
deference, whether he be a king, an earl, an archbishop, 
or a bishop ,~7you should observe these same customs 
which I have just taught you. However, if the number 
of distinguished people at the royal table should be 
large, you need not observe this custom as to drinking 
unless you wish, except when the king or the queen 
drinks, or when there is another king at the table with 

Now if the king's hirdmen happen to be seated to- 
gether in the royal hall but with no tables before them 
and certain lords come in whom the king is pleased to 
receive with honor, it is the duty of all men to rise be- 


fore them just as before their own lords and to give 
them such cordial greetings as they know that the king 
desires. But this is an honor which every kingsman owes 
to his fellows: when one who has been absent comes in 
and walks toward the seat where he has his proper place 
and position, the two who sit nearest to him on either 
side should rise, receive him in a friendly manner, and 
bid him welcome among them. Wherever the kingsmen 
are much in the eyes of other men, whether they sit 
together at a feast, or walk in the king's escort, or go 
out together to make merry, they ought always to 
speak in rather low tones, to be proper in their actions 
and elegant in their speech, and to avoid all indecent 
talk. All these rules which I have now recounted must 
be learned and observed by all kingsmen who wish to 
be known for good breeding. But no matter ho weathers 
behave^ be sure that you observe carefully all that I 
have taught you, and be willing to teach others who 
may wish to learn from you. 

X~ Now if your comrades are planning to go from the 
/ king's apartments to some drinkin^Jioiit or other merry- 
making^ and you, too, [have the king's permission to ? 
seek diversion^Jyou should jgrejer_the forms of amuse- x 
ment which I shall now point out to you. If you are so- 
journing where horses may be ridden and you have your 
own horse, put on heavy armor and, mounting your 
horse, {train ^yourself in the art of sitting on horseback (/ 
_in the firmest and most handsome manner jTrain your--> 
self to press the foot firmly into the stirrup; keep your 
leg stiff and the heel a little lower than the toes, except 
when you have to guard against thrusts from the front; 


/ ut 

and practice sitting firmly with the thighs pressed close. 
Cover your breast and limbs carefully with a curved 
shield. Train your left hand to grasp firmly the bridle 
and the grip of the shield, and your right hand to direct 
the spear-thrust so that all your bodily strength will 
support it. Train your good steed to veer about when 
in full gallop; keep him clean and in good condition; 
keep him shod firmly and well, and provide him with a 
strong and handsome harness. 

But if you are in a borough or some such place_where 
horses cannot be used for recreation, you should take 
up this form of amusement: go to your chambers and 
put on heavy armor; next look up some fellow hench- 
man (he may be a native or an alien) who likes to drill 
with you and whom you know to be well trained to 
fight behind a shield or a buckler. Always bring heavy 
armor to this exercise, either chain-mail or a thick gam- 
ison,* and carry a heavy sword and a weighty shield 
or buckler in your hand. [in this game you should strive 
to learn suitable thrusts and such counterstrokes JLS_ are 
good, necessary, and convenientJLearn precisely how 
to cover yourself with the shield, so that you may be 
able to guard well when you have to deal with a foeman. 
If you feel that it is important to be well trained in these 
activities, go through the exercise twice a day, if it is 
convenient; but let no day pass, except holidays, with- 
out practicing this drill at least once;[for it is counted 

* The gambison (panzari) was a form of defensive armor made of cloth 
padded and quilted. It is described on page 217 as being made " of soft linen 
thoroughly blackened." Usually it was worn under the coat of mail, but it 
could also be worn outside. See Annalerfor nordisk Oldkyndighed, 1867, 74 ff. 
(Blom.); Falk, Altnordische Waffenkunde, 181-182. 


proper for all kingsmen to master this art and, more- 7 
bver, it must be mastered if it is to be of servicejlf the -5 
drill tires you and makes you thirsty, drink a little now 
and then, enough to quench your thirst; but while the 
game is on, be careful not to drink till you are drunk or 
even merry. 

If you should like to try a variety of drills and pas- 
times, there are certain sports that one can take up out 
of doors, if that is thought more diverting. For one 
thing, you may have a pole prepared, somewhat heavier 
than a spear shaft, and put up a mark some distance 
away for a target; with these you can determine how far 
and how accurately you can throw a spear and do it effec- J cc / 
tively. It is also counted rare sport and pastime to take N ~^f> i 
one's bow and go with other men to practice archery. / 
Another pleasant and useful diversion is to practice 
throwing with a sling both for distance and for accuracy, 
and with a staff sling * as well as with a hand sling, and 
to practice throwing stone missiles. Formerly the cus- 
tom was for all who wished to become expert in such 
arts and thoroughly proficient in war and chivalry to / 
train both hands alike to the use of weapons. Strive 
after the same skill, if you find yourself gifted for it, / 
inasmuch as those who are trained in that way are the / 
most perfect in these activities and the most dangerous / 
to their enemies. 

You should abhor and avoid manslaying in every 
form except as a lawful punishment or in common war- 
fare. But in ordinary warfare on the lawful command 

* The staff sling was a sling fastened to the end of a stick; it was an earlier 
form which was not used much in the thirteenth century. 


of your chief, you need to shun manslaying no more 
than any other deed which you know to be right and 
good. Show courage and bravery in battle; fight with 
proper and effective blows, such as you have already 
learned, as if in the best of humor, though filled with 
noble wrath. Never fight with feigned strokes, needless 
thrusts, or uncertain shots like a frightened man. Heed 
these things well that you may be able to match your 
opponent's skill in fighting. Be resolute in combat but 
not hot-headed and least of all boastful. Always re- 
member that there may be those who can give good 
testimony in your behalf: but never praise vonr own 
deeds, lest after a time it should come to piass that jrou 
are pursued for the slaughter of men whose death js^ 
\ rated a great loss and the revenge is directed toward 

you by your ownjords. 

If you are fighting on foot in a land battle and are 
placed at the point of a wedge-shaped column,* it is 
very important to watch the closed shield line in the 
first onset, lest it become disarranged or broken. Take 
heed never to bind the front edge of your shield under 
that of another, f You must also be specially careful, 
when in the battle line, never to throw your spear, un- 
less you have two, for in battle array on land one spear 
is more effective than two swords. But if the fight is on 
shipboard, select two spears which are not to be thrown, 
one with a shaft long enough to reach easily from ship 

baped column (jtfc^yOaif , perhaps so named from a fancied 
; to a boar's head) was a common form of battle array among the 
Northern peoples as wd as among the early Germans generally. 
t As the shield was bora on the kft arm, the front edge would be the right 


to ship and one with a shorter shaft, which you will find 
particularly serviceable when you try to board the 
enemy's ship. Various kinds of darts should be kept on 
ships, both heavy javelins and lighter ones. Try to 
strike your opponent's shield with a heavy javelin, and 
if the shield glides aside, attack him with a light javelin, 
unless you are able to reach him with a long-shafted 
spear. Fight on sea as on land with an even temper and 
with proper strokes only; and never waste_yoiir weapons 
by hurling them to no purpose. 

Weapons of many sorts may be used to advantage on 
shipboard, which one has no occasion to use on land, 
except in a fortress or castle. Longhandled scythes * and 
long-shafted broadaxes,t " war-beams " and staff slings, 
darts, { and missiles of every sort are serviceable on 
ships. Crossbows and longbows are useful as well as all 
other forms of shooting weapons; but coal and sulphur 
are, however, the most effective munitions of all that I 
have named. Caltrops ; cast in lead and good halberds ^ 
are also effective weapons on shipboard. A tower joined 

* These scythes were apparently used to catch and hold the 1 

perhaps also to cot the ropes on the ship. See the Soro etfition, 

t The broadai (tfajfux) had the blade extended backward somewhat like 


See Falk, Ataordudte Wa/emtmmde, 108-110. 

I Skfpti/UUa: a dart of some sort with a cord attached. 

Coal and suphur seem to have been used chiefly to fire the enemy's ship. 

|| Caltrops were instruments provided with iron prongs and were usually 

scattered where the enemy's horsemen were likely to pass, in the hope of 

manning the horses. It is evident that they were also used in naval warfare, 

the purpose being to maim the men on the enemy's deck. See the Soro edition. 

f Aigwr. The translation is doubtful but it seems dear that some kind of 
spear useful for striking as wcfl as for thrusting is meant. See Falk, 
dixke Wtfemtnie, 81-OL 


to the mast * will be serviceable along with these and 
many other defenses, as is also a beam cloven into four 
parts and set with prongs of hard steel, f which is drawn 
up against the mast. A " prow-boar" J with an ironclad 
snout is also useful in naval battles. But it is well for 
men to be carefully trained in handling these before 
they have to use them; for one knows neither the time 
nor the hour when he shall have to make use of any 
particular kind of weapons. But take good heed to col- 
lect as many types of weapons as possible, while you 
still have no need of them; for it is always a distinction 
to have good weapons, and, furthermore, they are a 
good possession in times of necessity when one has to 
use them. For a ship's defense the following arrange- 
ment is necessary: it should be fortified strongly with 
beams and logs built up into a high rampart, through 
which there should be four openings, each so large and 
wide that one or two men in full armor can leap through 
them; but outside and along the rampart on both sides 
of the ship there should he laid a level walk of planks 
to stand upon. This breastwork must be firmly and 

* Probably some sort of a cage placed at the top or near the top of the mast 
from which men with bows and slings could fight to better advantage. See 
Aarboger for nordisk Oldkyndighed, 1872, 242; Falk, Altnordische Waffen- 
kunde, 197. 

t Only one end of the beam was cloven in this way. See the Sorb edition, 394- 
395. The beam was apparently fastened to the mast and used to crush the 
sides of the enemy's ship in much the same way as the ram was used against 
a castle wall. See Talk, Altnordische Waffenkunde, 199. 
J The prow-boar (rdftrgoltr) was not a beak but apparently some device 
fastened to the prow which served much the same purpose, namely to run 
down and sink an opposing ship. See the Soro edition, 395-396; Falk, Altnor- 
dische Waffenkunde, 198-199. 

See the Soro edition, 397-399; Falk, Altnordische Waffenkunde, 196. This 
rampart was built of logs and planks and raised on the gunwales. Sometimes 


carefully braced so that it cannot be shaken though 
one leaps violently upon it. Wide shields and chain mail 
of every sort are good defensive weapons on shipboard; 
the chief protection, however, is the gambison made of 
soft linen thoroughly blackened, good helmets, and low 
caps of steel. There are many other weapons that can 
be used in naval fights, but it seems needless to discuss 
more than those which I have now enumerated. 



Son. Since we now have before us a discussion which 
teaches chiefly how a man must prepare himself to meet 
his enemies in attack and defense, it seems to me that 
it would be well to say something about how one has 
to fight on land, on horse or on foot, and in attacking 
and defending castles. Therefore, if you feel disposed 
to say anything about such matters, I shall be glad to 

Father. The man who is to fight on horseback needs 
to make sure, as we have already stated, that he is 
thoroughly trained in all the arts of mounted warfare. 
For his horse he will need to provide this equipment: * 
he must keep him carefully and firmly shod; he must 
also make sure that the saddle is strong, made with high 
bows, and provided with strong girths and other saddle- 
it seems to have been placed along the entire length of the ship, but often, 
perhaps, only where the ship was lowest. Inside it was braced with strong 
beams. The plank walk on the outside projected over the edge of the ship and 
was no doubt in part intended to make it difficult for the enemy to board it. 
* On the equipment of the horse in medieval warfare, see Aarbogerfor nordisk 
Oldkyndighed, 1867, 90-97. 


gear, including a durable surcingle across the middle 
and a breast strap in front.* The horse should be pro- 
tected in such a way both in front of the saddle and be- 
hind it that he will not be exposed to weapons, spear 
thrust or stroke, or any other form of attack. He should 
also have a good shabrack f made like a gambison of 
soft and thoroughly blackened linen cloth, for this is a 
good protection against all kinds of weapons. It may be 
decorated as one likes, and over the shabrack there 
should be a good harness of mail. With this equipment 
every part of the horse should be covered, head, loins, 
breast, belly, and the entire beast, so that no man, even if 
on foot, shall be able to reach him with deadly weapons. 
The horse should have a strong bridle, one that can be 
gripped firmly and used to rein him in or throw him when 
necessary. Over the bridle and about the entire head of 
the horse and around the neck back to the saddle, there 
should be a harness made like a gambison of firm linen 
cloth, so that no man shall be able to take away the 
bridle or the horse by stealth. t 

* In the thirteenth century the saddle was made with high bows before and 
behind so as to provide a firmer seat for the rider. The surcingle was a girth 
drawn over the saddle; the breast strap served to keep the saddle from slip- 
ping backwards. Aarboger for nor disk Oldkyndighed, 91. 
f Kovertur, from medieval French couverture. But the couverture was not a 
covering worn underneath, the mail; it was probably the mail itself or an 
outer covering for the horse. See Falk, Altnordische Waffenkunde, 191. 
J Falk believes that this description is in some respects inaccurate. No such 
elaborate equipment could have been used in the North where cavalry was 
not an important part of the host in the thirteenth century. He also doubts 
that an equipment just like the one described was in use anywhere in Europe 
at the time. Ibid., 190-191. The medieval couverture was not placed beneath 
the covering of mail as the Speculum Regale states; and Falk can see no 
reason why a gambison placed beneath the mail should be ornamented. 
It seems clear that the author is somewhat confused as to these various 


The rider himself should be equipped in this wise: 
he should wear good soft breeches made of soft and 
thoroughly blackened linen cloth, which should reach 
up to the belt; outside these, good mail hose* which 
should come up high enough to be girded on with a 
double strap; over these he must have good trousers 
made of linen cloth of the sort that I have already 
described ; finally, over these he should have good knee- 
pieces made of thick iron and rivets hard as steel. f Above 
and next to the body he should wear a soft gambison, 
which need not come lower than to the middle of the 
thigh. Over this he must have a strong breastplate { 
made of good iron covering the body from the nipples to 
the trousers belt ; outside this, a well-made hauberk and 
over the hauberk a firm gambison made in the manner 
which I have already described but without sleeves. He 
must have a dirk and two swords, one girded on and 
another hanging from the pommel of the saddle. On his 
head he must have a dependable helmet made of good 
steel and provided with a visor. || He must also have a 
strong, thick shield fastened to a durable shoulder belt 
and, in addition, a good sharp spear with a firm shaft 
and pointed with fine steel. Now it seems needless to 

* The mail hose were made of chain mail. Aarboger for nordisk Oldkyndighed, 

1867, 73-74. 

f The kneepieces> or genouilleres were pieces of armor worn to protect the 


t Blom thinks that the breastplate was a new thing in the thirteenth century 

(ibid., 76), but Falk believes that it was used quite generally (Altnordische 

Wqffenkunde, 182). 

The dirk (brynknifr) was probably a poniard-like weapon used to pierce the 

chain mail at the joints. Falk, Altnordische Waffenkunde, 124. 

1 1 The helmet with the visor appears in the illustrations of the closing years of 

the twelfth century; the earlier helmet was a steel cap with a nose guard. 

Aarboger for nordisk Oldkyndighed, 83-84. 


speak further about the equipment of men who fight 
on horseback; there are, however, other weapons which 
a mounted warrior may use, if he wishes; among these 
are the " horn bow " * and the weaker crossbow, which 
a man can easily draw even when on horseback, and 
certain other weapons, too, if he should want them. 



Son. Inasmuch as you seem to think that you have 
described most of the weapons which are convenient to 
have in naval warfare or in fighting on horseback, I will 
now ask you to say something about those which you 
think are most effective in besieging or defending castles. 

Father. All the weapons that we have just discussed 
as useful on ships or on horseback can also be used in 
attacking and defending castles; but there are many 
other kinds. If one is to attack a castle with the weapons 
which I have enumerated, he will also have need of 
trebuckets : f a few powerful ones with which to throw 
large rocks against stone walls to determine whether 
they are able to resist such violent blows, and weaker 
trebuckets for throwing missiles over the walls to de- 
molish the houses within the castle. But if one is unable 
to break down or shatter a stone wall with trebuckets, 

* Little seems to be known about the hornbow. Captain Blom finds it men- 
tioned in the Latin sources as balista cornea or balista cum cornu. Aarbogerfor 
nordisk Oldkyndighed, 1867, 100-101. Falk believes that it was a bow which 
was reinforced on the inner side with horn. Altnordische Waffenkunde, 91-92. 
f The trebucket (French trebuchef) was a siege engine which came into use in 
the twelfth century; it was worked by counterpoises. For a description see 
Oman, Art of War, 143-144; Aarboger for nordisk Oldkyndighed, 1867, 103- 
104; Falk, Altnordische Waffenkunde, 193-194. 


he will have to try another engine, namely the iron- 
headed ram,* for very few stone walls can withstand 
its attack. If this engine fails to batter down or shake 
the wall, it may be advisable to set the cat f to work. 
A tower raised on wheels J is useful in besieging castles, 
if it is constructed so that it rises above the wall which 
is to be stormed, even though the difference in height 
be only seven ells; but the higher it is, the more effective 
it will be in attacking another tower. Scaling ladders on 
wheels which may be moved backward and forward are 
also useful for this purpose, if they are boarded up un- 
derneath and have good ropes on both sides. And we 
may say briefly about this craft, that in besieging castles 
use will be found for all sorts of military engines. But 
whoever wishes to join in this must be sure that he 
knows precisely even to the very hour when he shall 
have need for each device. 

Those who have to defend a castle may also make use 
of these weapons which I have now enumerated and 
many more: trebuckets both large and small, hand 
slings and staff slings. They will find crossbows and 
other bows, too, very effective, as well as every other 

* The ram was a massive beam used to batter down walls; it was an in- 
heritance from antiquity and was much in use. See Oman, Art of War, 132; 
Aarboger for nordisk Oldkyndighed, 1867, 104; Falk, Altnordische Waffen- 
kunde, 198. 

f Grafsvin. Falk translates this with " badger " and seems to believe that it 
was a shelter on wheels under which the attackers might work in compara- 
tive safety. Altnordische Waffenkunde, 196. It is more likely, however, that a 
"cat" is meant. The cat was a long pointed pole used to loosen the stones in 
a wall and thus to make a breach. It is also called a " sow " and the Old Norse 
term grafsvin, " digging boar," was evidently an attempt to translate the 
Latin term scrofa or sus, " hog " or " sow." For a description of the cat, see 
Oman, Art of War, 132. 
t On the subject of the movable tower see Oman, Art of War, 134-135, 549. 


type of shooting weapons, such as spears and javelins 
both light and heavy. But to resist the trebuckets, 
the cat, and the engine called the ram, it is well to 
strengthen the entire stone wall on the inside with 
large oaken timbers; though if earth and clay are plen- 
tiful, these materials had better be used. Those who 
have to defend castles are also in the habit of making 
curtains of large oak boughs, three or even five deep, 
to cover the entire wall; * and the curtain should be 
thoroughly plastered with good sticky clay. To defeat 
the attacks of the ram, men have sometimes filled large 
bags with hay or straw and lowered them with light 
iron chains in front of the ram where it sought to pierce 
the wall. It sometimes happens that the shots fall so 
rapidly upon a fortress that the defenders are unable 
to remain at the battlements; it is then advisable to 
hang out brattices made of light planks and built high 
enough to reach two ells above the openings in the para- 
pet and three ells below them. They should be wide 
enough to enable the men to fight with any sort of 
weapons between the parapet and the brattice wall, and 
they should be hung from slender beams in such a way 
that they may be readily drawn in and hung out again 
later, as one may wish.f 

The " hedgehog " { will be found an effective device 

* These curtains were evidently placed on the outer side of the wall, 
f This translation of hengirigskarft is based on Blom's interpretation (Aar- 
bogerfor nordisk Oldkyndighed, 1867, 105-106, note). The brattices were pro- 
jecting galleries built along the top of the wall and were in use before it be- 
came customary to build stone parapets. Cf. Oman, Art of War, 534. 
t The hedgehog (ericius) in common use was a form of the cheval defrise and 
was laid on the earth to impede a hostile advance. -I know of no other men- 
tion of the device (igulkottr) described above. 


in defending a castle. It is made of large, heavy beams 
armed along the ridge with a brush of pointed oak nails ; 
it is hung outside the parapet to be dropped on anyone 
who comes too near the wall. Turnpikes made of large 
heavy logs armed with sharp teeth of hard oak may be 
raised on end near the battlements and kept ready to 
be dropped upon those who approach the castle. An- 
other good device is the " briar," * which is made of 
good iron and has curved thorns as hard as steel with 
a barb on every thorn; and the chain, from which it 
hangs, as high up as a man can reach must be made of 
spiked links, so that it can be neither held nor hewn; 
higher up any kind of rope that seems suitable may be 
used, only, it must be firm and strong. This briar is 
thrown down among the enemy in the hope of catching 
one or more of them and then it is pulled up again. A 
" running wheel " f is also a good weapon for those who 
defend castles: it is made of two millstones with an 
axle of tough oak joining them. Planks sloping down- 
ward are laid out through the openings in the wall; the 
wheel is rolled out upon these and then down upon the 

A " shot wagon " {is also a good device. This is made 
like any other wagon with two or four wheels as one 
likes and is intended to carry a load of stones, hot or 

* Captain Blom is disposed to look on the brynklungr as an imaginary device 

(Aarboger for nordisk Oldkyndighed, 1867, 106) but Falk finds that some such 

instrument was in use in Italy as early as the tenth century (Altnordische 

Waffenkunde, 199-200). 

t Devices somewhat similar to the " running wheel " seem to have been used 

in medieval warfare, but of this particular form no other mention has been 

found. See Falk, Altnordische Waffenkunde, 200. 

% Ibid. The " shot wagon " is not mentioned elsewhere. 


cold as one may prefer. It must also be provided with 
two firm and strong chains, one on each side, which can 
be depended on to check the wagon even where it has 
a long track to run upon. It is meant to run on planks 
set with a downward slope, but one must be careful to 
keep the wheels from skidding off the planks. When the 
chains check the speed, the wagon shoots its load out 
upon the men below. The more uneven the stones are, 
some large and some small, the more effective the load 
will be. Canny men, who are set to defend a wall and 
wish to throw rocks down upon the attacking line or 
upon the penthouse, make these rocks of clay with 
pebbles, slingstones, and other hard stones placed in- 
side. The clay is burned hard enough on the outside to 
endure the flight while the load is being thrown; but as 
soon as the rocks fall they break into fragments and 
consequently cannot be hurled back again. To break 
down stone walls, however, large, hard rocks are re- 
quired. Similarly, when one hurls missiles from a stone 
fortress against an opposing wooden tower or upon the 
axletrees which support siege engines, towers, scaling 
ladders, cats, or any other engine on wheels, the larger 
and harder the rocks that are used, the more effective 
they will be. 

Boiling water, molten glass, and molten lead are also 
useful in defending walls.* But if a cat or any other 
covered engine which cannot be damaged by hot water 
is being pushed toward a castle, it is a good plan, if the 
engine is lower than the walls, to provide beams care- 

* See the Soro edition, 424-425, where the editor cites a number of references 
to the use of fire in defensive warfare; these are nearly all drawn from the 


fully shod with iron underneath and in addition armed 
with large, sharp, red-hot plowshares. These are to be 
thrown down upon the wooden engine in which the 
plowshares are likely to stick fast, while the beams may 
be hoisted up again. This attack should be followed up 
with pitch, sulphur, or boiling tar.* 

Mines dug in the neighborhood of a castle are also 
an excellent protection; the deeper and narrower they 
are, the better it is; and where men are shoving mounted 
engines toward the walls, it were well if there were many 
mines. All mines should have a number of small open- 
ings, which must be covered so as not to be visible on the 
surface. They should be filled with fuel of the most in- 
flammable sort, peat or anything else that burns readily. 
When a castle is attacked at night either from wooden 
towers or with scaling ladders or any other engine on 
wheels, the defenders should steal out and fire the 
mines, f 

Now if it should happen that the enemy's stones 
come over the battlements with such violence that the 
men cannot remain in the open to defend the wall, it is 
a good plan to set up strong posts cut from thick oak 
and to lay large and tough cross beams upon these, 
then to roof the whole over with firm oak timbers, and 
finally to cover the roofing with a layer of earth not less 
than three or four ells in depth, upon which the rocks 
may be allowed to drop.J In like manner the attack of 

* Evidently the purpose would be to crush the engine with the beam, to set it 

on fire with the hot plowshares, and to put the assailants to flight with the 

pitch, sulphur, or tar; these would also feed the flames. 

t On the subject of mines see Oman, Art of War, 549-550. 

J The posts were apparently placed on top of the wall, the purpose being to 

raise the wall to a greater height as well as to furnish shelter for the defenders. 


a wooden tower that is moving toward a castle may be 
foiled by setting up strong, firm posts rising consider- 
ably higher than the attacking tower. But a more effec- 
tive contrivance than all the engines that I have now 
described is a stooping shield-giant which breathes forth 
flame and fire.* And now we shall close our account of 
the engines that are useful in defending castle walls with 
the reminder that every sort of weapon with which one 
can shoot, hurl, hew, or thrust, and every kind that 
can be used in attack or defense may be brought into 



Son. Since you seem to think that sufficient has been 
said about weapons both for attack and defense, how 
they should be made or built, and on what occasion each 
kind should be used (and after your comments these 
things are very clear to me), I now wish to ask whether 
there may not be other subjects which you think ought 
to be discussed, such as pertain to customs that one 
must observe in the presence of great men or at royal 

Father. There still remain a number of things which 
a man should not fail to hear discussed and to reflect 
upon, if he is to attend on kings or other magnates and 

* The shield-giant was probably a mythical device; but it is possible as has 
been suggested that its fiery breath may refer to the use of Greek fire, with 
which the Norwegians became acquainted during the crusades, or even to 
early experiments with gunpowder. Falk, Altnordische Waffenkunde, 200-201. 
It is not known when gunpowder was invented, but the earliest known for- 
mula for making it is found in the writings of Roger Bacon, who was a con- 
temporary of the author of the King's Mirror. 


wishes to be ranked among them as a worthy man. But 
there are three things (which are, however, almost the 
same in reality) which one must observe with care : they 
are wisdom, good breeding, and courtesy. It is courtesy 
to be friendly, humble, ready to serve, and elegant in 
speech; to know how to behave properly while convers- 
ing or making merry with other menfe to know precisely, 
when a man is conversing with women, whether they 
be young or older in years, of gentle or humble estate, 
how to select such expressions as are suited to their rank 

and are as proper for them to hear as for him to use. In 
like manner when one speaks with men, whether they 
be young or old, gentle or humble, it is well to knowjhow 
to ejnploy jitting words and how to determine what ex- 
pressions are proper for each one to take note of. Even 
when mere pleasantry is intended, it is well to choose 
fair and decent words. It is also courtesy to know how 
to discriminate in language, when to use plural and when 
to use singular forms in addressing the men with whom 
one is conversing; to know how to select one's clothes 
both as to color and other considerations; and to know 
when to stand or sit, when to rise or kneel. It is also 
courtesy to know when a man ought to let his hands 
drop gently and to keep them quiet, or when he ought 
to move them about in service for himself or for others; 
to know in what direction to turn his face and breast, 
and how to turn his back and shoulders. It is courtesy 
to know precisely when he is free to wear his cloak, hat, 
or coif, if he has one, and when these are not to be worn; 
also to know, when at the table, whether good breeding 
demands that one must watch the great men partake of 


food, or whether one may eat and drink freely in any 
that seems convenient and proper.\(t is also cour- 

tesy to refrain from sneers and contemptuous jests, to 
' know clearly what churlishness is and to avoid it care- 

It is good breeding to be agreeable and never obsti- 
nate when one is with other men, and to be modest in 
demeanor; to walk a proper gait when on foot and to 
watch one's limbs carefully wherever one goes to make 
sure that each will move correctly and yet in a natural 
way. ; It is good breeding, too, when one strolls about 
in a city among strangers, to keep silence and use few 
words,)to shun turmoil and disgraceful tippling, to pun- 
ish theft and robbery and all other foolish rioting. It is 
also good breeding to avoid profanity, cursing, scolding, 
and all other pernicious talk. Be careful also never 
appear as the advocate of stupid and dishonest men and 
especially not to support them in their impudence^ 
rather to show hatred for wickedness in every form. It i 
good breeding to shun chess and dice, brothels and per- 
jury, false testimony, and other lasciviousness or filthy 
behavior^. It shows good breeding to be cleanly in food 
and clothes; to take good care of the ships, horses, 
weapons, and buildings that one may possess; to be cau- 
tious and never rash and to be undismayed in times of 
stress; never to be ostentatious, domineering, or envious; 
r and to shun arrogance and affectation in every form. But 
) the chief point in all conduct is to love God and holy 
] church, to hear mass regularly, to be diligent in divine 
</ service, and to implore mercy for oneself and all other 


No one can attain to all these virtues which we have 
now enumerated as belonging to courtesy and good 
breeding, unless he is also endowed with wisdom. These 
gifts will accompany wisdom: elegance in speech, elo- 
quence, insight into proper conduct, and ability to dis- 
criminate between good manners and what passes for 
such in the sayings of foolish men, though they are in 
fact bad manners. It is also wisdom, when one is present 
at the law court, or some other place where men congre- 
gate, and hears the speeches and the suits of men, to be 
able to discerndearly what suits or what speeches de- 
livered^ there are based on reason and which ones are 
merely glib palaver and senseless verbosity. It is also 
wisdom to have a clear appreciation, when decrees are 
rendered in the disputes of men, of how these are stated, 
so that not a word will be added or taken away, if one 
should need to know them at some later time. It is also 
wisdom to keep faithfully in mind what facts were dis- 
cussed and what agreements were reached. It is wisdom 
to know the law thoroughly, to have clear perceptions 
of what is actual law and what is merely called law, 
being nothing but quibble and subterfuge. It is also 
wisdom, if one has a request to make, to be able to de- 
termine what he may ask for that will prove serviceable 
and is proper for the other to grant; also, if one meets 
a request, to know precisely what he may grant with 
propriety and in what matters he must be careful not to 
bind himself or those who come after him, such things, 
namely, as may prove a disgrace to him rather than a 
distinction. Finally, it is wisdom not to be strait-handed 




about things which one may just as well dispose of, lest 
such stint or stinginess bring shame upon him. 

There is also great wisdom in moderation and right- 
eousness. All forms of learning, insight, and good fore- 
sight which is necessary to courtesy and good breeding, 
to stewardship, government and the enforcement of 
law, these, too, are akin to wisdom. And you will 
need to learn all this thoroughly, if you wish to be known 
among kings and chieftains as an estimable man, for all 
who know these things are received with favor among 
the great. Furthermore, the lives of men who have 
mastered this knowledge may bring great honor to 
themselves and profit to many others. But wisdom has 
any forms, for it springs from roots which have many 
branches. And from these roots of wisdom rises the 

mightiest of 

agMll Jiyjd^sjnto large 

branches, and a multitude of twigs of 
"different sizes, some small and some Targe. These are 
later distributed among men' in sjuchji way that some 
obtain the larger and some the smaller ones, and these 
"ncEes have their value according as they are loved. He 
who is sure to appreciate this wealth and share it freely 
receives a large amount; for the nature of this possession 
is such that it is most attracted to him who loves it most 
and uses it most liberally. ^And if men knew how io^ 
value and appreciate these riches properly, gold and 
silver would seem to them like rust, clay, or ashes, 
when compared with these treasures. But he who wishes 
to secure this wealth must begin in this way : he must 
fear Almighty God and love Him above all things. 




Son. It was clearly well-advised to continue this in- 
quiry, for now I have gotten both useful and precise 
information; and this speech will surely help every man 
who is at least somewhat intelligent to more definite 
ideas than he had before. Moreover, those who have 
received only slenderw^md^frnrn th^ boughs of wisdom 
are more numerous than those whaliave_xeceived_ large 
branches^some gettingjjut^the tiniesrt twigs, and some_ 
a mere leaf, while those who get nothing must indeed 
be few. Therefore I wish to ask you to instruct me fur- 
ther in the art of choosing and laying hold on those 
branches which may prove useful to myself and others. 

Father. The virtues that I have just enumerated grow 
especially on the boughs of wisdom, but they ramify 
into a great many good branches and twigs. Now these <r 


are the branches which are most useful : a rational out- " 
look, a temperate mind, and the capacity to determine 
judiciously what one owes to every other man. "If you v 
are angry with any man because of a law suit or some 
evil deed, take careful thought before seeking revenge, 
as to how important the matter really is and how great 
a retribution it is worth ./When you hear things in the 
speech of other men which offend you much, be sure to 
investigate with reasonable care whether the tales be 
true or false; but if they prove to be true and it is proper 
for you to seek revenge, take it with reason and modera- 
tion and never when heated or irritated! YE ven though 
you hear tidings which seem damaging to yourself or 




your business, such as loss of property or men, always 
bear it with a calm and undaunted temper. Let the loss 
of wealth seem least to you, for you must bear in mind 
jthat it is sinful to worship wealth or to love it too highly, 
even though it returns a man's love and comes abun- 
tkmtly into his keeping. And to love wealth much, when 
it seems inclined to turn away from a man and does not 
return his love, is surely sinful and will lead to grief. 
Remember, too, that all come destitute into the world; 
and our mode of departure from this life is such that 
wealth cannot follow us out of the world. Nevertheless, 
you must take heed that nothing is lost through your 
iieglect or indifference. And never grieve so deeply over 
a loss that you cannot be hopeful and cheerful as before. 
If you suffer loss of men, bear that loss, too, with a 
calm spirit; for remember that every man in departing 
this life fulfils a law in human nature, inasmuch as no 
one is created to live forever in this world. Let it grieve 
you more, if an acquaintance of yours who has not 
lived as he ought here on earth, should die in that state 
and leave the world in disgrace; but most of all if you 
fear that his soul is in peril; for such things are rather 
to be lamented than that in dying he pays a debt to 
nature* But if he lived uprightly while on earth and 
made proper provision for his soul before he died, then 
you may take comfort in the good repute that lives after 
him, and even more in the blissful happiness which you 
believe he will enjoy with God in the other world. In 
the same way you must keep your spirit calm and in 
good control when such events come to pass as may seem 
profitable to you and stir your heart to joy and gladness, 


whether it be the death of men whom you have hated, 
or other happenings in which you might seem to find 
pleasure. But if you should happen to hear of the death 
of a man whom you counted an enemy and to whom 
you had planned to do evil, if opportunity should be 
found, rejoice much more in that God has saved you 
from a threefold sin than in the death of him who has 
departed. For you should be glad that God has pre- 
vented your hands from committing the sinful deed 
that was in your purpose, and has relieved your mind 
of the long-continued wrath and bitterness which you 
cherished against your enemy while he lived. 

Likewise, if high honors and dignities should come 
to you from a king or from other magnates, it is im- 
portant that you should know how to receive them with 
modesty, lest what befalls so many an indiscreet man 
should also happen to you. For it is often the case that 
when one who is lacking in good sense receives any 
preferment from great men, he will rate himself so high 
in his pride and avarice that he counts no other man 
his equal. But such pretension leads to the downfall of 
everyone who behaves in this way; inasmuch as it is 
God's purpose to strike down immoderate pride with 
sacred humility; and everyone who is too proud and 
greedy in his behavior will surely find God a constant 
opponent LNow if you should be so fortunate as to re- 
ceive preferments from a king or other princes, remem- 
ber it is God's method and purpose, by prompting them 
(for He holds the minds and hearts of chiefs in His hand), 
to elevate such men as He wishes to honor and dignity. 
On the other hand, it is also the duty of every man to 


assist all those who have less strength than he. Keep in 
mind, then, if God should raise you up to any place of 
honor, that it must be to the profit of all who are less 
capable than yourself, except such as hate morality and 
right counsel; to them it should be a hindrance for a just 
man to be given power and authority. If God gives you 
wisdom and clear insight and you have also the good 
fortune to be awarded honors by great men, there are 
certain vices which you need especially to guard against : 
arrogant self-esteem,^avarice that yearns for bribes, and 
forgetful neglect of the needs of men who are less capable 
than yourself. Keep constantly before your eyes as a 
warning the misfortunes of those who have fallen into 
disgrace because of immoderate pride. Also keep in 
mind, as a comforting hope, the careers of men who have 
received constant honors because of their steadfast jus- 
tice and humility. 





Son. I see clearly that God creates men unequal in 
power and wisdom because He wishes to see how each 
one is going to use what He has endowed him with, 
whether in high living for the glorification of self, or in 
bountiful kindness toward those who have need of him 
and have not received such gifts from God. And now I 
want to ask you to cite a few examples both of men 
whose good sense and humility have brought them 
honor and of such as have suffered destruction through 
vain pride. 


Father. There have been so many cases of that sort, 
that we should have to extend our talk to a great length, 
if we were to mention all those of either class which we 
know could serve as examples to show how these things 
have worked out. I shall therefore name a few only, 
though some of each kind, for in that way a long dis- 
course may be the sooner finished. The following in- 
stances are ancient and easily remembered. When 
Joseph was sold into Egypt,* a mighty lord bought him; 
but after he had purchased him he found that Joseph 
was a discreet man, and he preferred and honored him 
above all his other servants, not only above those whom 
he kept in bondage, but even above his freeborn kins- 
men; and he gave into his hands the oversight of his 
wealth and property, house and home, and all his wel- 
fare. But because Joseph was a handsome man, kind 
and courteous in behavior, and sensible in speech, he 
won the love and friendship of all who knew him and 
were subject to the same lord who was Joseph's master. 

The wife of this mighty man loved Joseph more than 
was proper, and impelled by evil desire, she sought to 
commit a vile sin against her husband, because of the 
love that she bore for Joseph ; and she was not ashamed 
in her bold passion to intimate to him what she had in 
mind. But when he learned her purpose, he replied in 
this wise: " We cannot deal with each other as equals, 
for you are my lady and I am your thrall; and it would 
be a very great disgrace for you to submit yourself to 
me and too bold and rash in me to bring such dishonor 

* Genesis, cc. xxxix-xli. The author treats the Biblical narratives with great 



upon you /But even worse is the unfaithfulness to ward_ 
my lord which I should be guilty of, if I were to reward 
his kindness in this way like a treacherous thrall. For 
he has trusted me, his servant, so far as to give all his 
wealth and riches into my hands and keeping, and 
I must not deceive my lawful master^ with shameful 
treachery, unless I should wish to prove the saying in 
daily use that it is ill to have a thrall as a chosen friend." 
But when the woman saw. that Joseph was a good man 
and wished to be faithful, she thought it a shame that 
he should know her faithlessness, and, prompted by 
enmity and not by justice, she became anxious to work 
his ruin, if possible. So she told her husband that Joseph 
had made an unseemly request and added that it showed 
great audacity, in a thrall to make such bold remarks 
to his lady. She was believed as a good wife, and Joseph 
was cast into prison strongly fettered and heavily 
chained, the purpose being to let him end his days by 
rotting alive because of his pride and faithlessness. But 
when God, Who always loves justice and humility, saw 
the faithfulness of Joseph whom He knew to be inno- 
cent, He shaped the outcome so that Joseph profited 
by the condemnation that he had suffered though inno- 
cent. For God saved him from prison under such circum- 
stances that he was elevated to far greater prominence 
than before; and God prompted King Pharaoh to make 
Joseph master and judge of all Egypt next to the king 
himself; and this office he held into his old age and as 
long as he lived. 

Long after this and in another place, a somewhat 
similar experience came to a famous king, who ruled 



over many realms. He was called by three names, be- 
cause the languages differed in the lands that he ruled 
over: in one place he was called Artaxerxes; in another 
place, Cyrus; and some tell us that to him God spoke 
these kind words by the mouth of his prophet :" To 
mine anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have 
holden to subdue nations before him; and I will loose 
the loins of kings/' etc.*] Others, however, maintain 
that it was another Cyrus who is referred to in this 1 
scripture; but we shall not discuss this any longer, since | 
we cannot be sure whether it was written about this \ 

Cyrus or another. But in a third place the king was 
called Ahasuerus. And whereas he himself was mighty 
and excellent, he also had a wealthy wife named Vashti, 
who was his queen. Once when the king was absent in 
distant warfare to extend his dominion, he had ap- 
pointed Queen Vashti to govern that part of his king- 
dom where his court resided. On his return home with 
a wealth of spoils, he made a great feast to gladden all 
those among his lords who had accompanied him on 
the campaign; and Queen Vashti made another feast 
for her own lords, who had remained at home to assist 
her in the government. Then the king commanded 
Vashti to appear before him in his hall in all her regalia 
and arrayed in all the beauty of queenly raiment and 
thus to show her joy in his home-coming and do honor 
to his feast. But Queen Vashti refused to obey the king's 
command, saying that she could not leave her own feast, 
having invited many good chiefs. When the king saw 

* Isaiah, xlv, 1. In this case the author quotes directly from the Vulgate: 
" Christo meo Sciro, cujus apprehendi dexteram, ut subjiciam ante faciem 
ejus gentes et dorsa regum vertam." 



her arrogance and pride, he concluded that she esteemed 
him no more highly for the perilous toil that he had 
endured while extending his frontiers than she esteemed 
herself for having remained quietly at home with the 
regency, which he had left in her hands. Because of this 
presumption the king became so wrathful, that he de- 
creed that Vashti had forfeited the office of queen and 
all the authority which she possessed. And he found a 
captive maiden of the people of Israel, whose name was 
Esther, who was then in bondage in his kingdom, though 
she had sprung from a prominent family in her native 
land, and this maiden the king placed in Vashti's seat, 
endowing her with all the power that Vashti had once 
possessed; and he made Esther queen of all his kingdom 
A few days later another event occurred at this same 
court. There was a famous and powerful chief named 
Haman and he was with King Ahasuerus. So highly did 
the king esteem Haman that all the people were ordered 
to obey him and bow down before him as before the 
king himself. Now there was also a man named Mor- 
decai, a captive of the people of Israel, who was Queen 
Esther's uncle; but inasmuch as he was both poor and 
in bondage, he dared not make known his kinship to 
the queen; nor dared the queen show greater deference 
to him than to any other in the royal service. Then it 
happened one day, when Haman the prince came to see 
the king, that on his return home his way passed near 
where Mordecai sat. But Mordecai was brooding over 
the bondage in which he had been placed along with 
the people who had been taken captive out of Israel; 
and being in deep thought he failed to notice that Ha- 


man was passing so near, and consequently did not 
rise to bow before him. But when Haman saw that an 
alien thrall neglected to bow the knee before him, he 
became so wrathful that as soon as he came home he 
ordered a high gallows to be raised near his house, on 
which he intended to hang Mordecai. He also caused 
letters to be sent throughout the realm permitting every 
man to deal with the people of Israel as he liked: who- 
ever wished to do so might plunder them, or force them 
into bondage and servitude, or even slay them. 

When the news of this came to Mordecai, necessity 
compelled him to deal more boldly with the queen than 
before: he came to wait upon her, and, throwing him- 
self at her feet, he told these tidings with much sorrow. 
When the queen heard that the entire nation from which 
she had sprung was condemned, she called upon God 
with all her soul; next she sought the king's presence, 
robed in the stately apparel of a queen, and fell humbly 
at his feet. But when the queen had entered and the 
king saw that she came in such deep humility and 
with troubled countenance, he perceived that she had 
a matter of such great importance to bring before him 
that she would have to find the courage in his favor to 
state what concerned her. Taking her hand he raised 
her up, spoke gently to her, seated her beside him, and 
bade her state clearly all the details of her errand. Queen 
Esther did as the king commanded and related the whole 
event just as it had occurred; and then she begged him 
/to take action according to royal mercy rather thann 
according to Haman's excessive anger. When the king/ 
saw Haman's boundless ambition and arrogant wrath, I 


he caused Haman himself to be hanged upon the gal- 
lows which he had intended for Mordecaijand sent 
orders throughout the entire realm that the people of 
Israel be allowed to live in complete freedom according 
to the ordinances of their sacred laws; and he gave to 
Mordecai all the authority that Haman had once pos- 

i^-"^ From this you will observe that God demands mod- 
eration and fairness, humility, justice, and fidelity as a 
V duty from those whom he raises to honor. For Joseph, 
as we said before, was rewarded with splendid honors 
and great advancement because of his faithfulness and 
humility, although he had been sold for money like a 
thrall into a strange land; but God soon raised him by 
the king's command to be a lord and the highest judge 
in all Egypt next to the king himself. One may also ob- 
serve from this how much it is contrary to God's will 
to exalt oneself through vain conceit; for Queen Vashti 
lost her queenship and all her power in a single day be- 
cause of her pride, while a captive maiden of a strange 
people was appointed in her stead; and Haman lost all 
his authority in a single day because of his excessive 

vanity, while his dignities were given to a stranger, a 

captive thrall. Now if you should win honors from great 
lords, beware of an outcome like those in the stories 
which you have just heard, and there are many such; 
but make good use of the story that I told you earlier 
about Joseph. 

There are still other examples which go far back into 
the days of Emperor Constantine: for God had ap- 

* See Esther, cc. i-viii. 


pointed him ruler of all the world, and he turned to 
righteousness and Christianity as soon as he came to 
understand the holy faith. He gave his mother, Queen 
Helena, a kingdom east of the sea in the land of the 
Jews. But because her realm and dominion were there, 
she came to be persuaded that no faith concerning God 
could be correct but that held by the Jews ; and as letters 
passed between them, the queen and her son the em- 
peror, they began to realize that they differed somewhat 
in the beliefs which each of them held concerning God. 
Then the emperor commanded the queen to come over 
the sea from the east with her wise and learned men and 
many other lords to a meeting in Rome, where the veri- 
ties of the holy faith should be examined. But when the 
queen arrived with her company, the emperor had called 
together many bishops including Pope Sylvester and 
many wise men, both Christians and heathen. When the 
conference had begun and a court had been appointed 
to decide between the emperor and the queen, it became 
evident to both that there was likely to be a violent dis- 
pute between the Christian bishops and the learned 
Jews and other wise men who had come with the queen 
from the east, in view of the fact that each side would 
produce weighty arguments from its books against the 
other to prove and confirm its own learning and holy 
faith. They saw clearly, therefore, that it would be 
necessary for the assembly to appoint upright judges, 
who could weigh in a tolerant and rational spirit all the 
arguments that might be offered on either side. 

But whereas the emperor with the pope and the Chris- 
tian bishops was the defender of holy Christianity and 


the queen the protecting shield of the Jewish faith, it 
was clear to both that it would be improper for them 
to subject themselves to temptation by acting as judges 
in this dispute. So they ordered a careful search to be 
made among the wise men to find whether there might 
be some in all their number who were so reliable in wis- 
dom, judgment, and rightmindedness, that all those 
present could trust them to judge rightly in their con- 
test. But when the entire multitude had been examined, 
only two men were found whom the people dared choose 
to be judges in these important matters; and both of 
these men were heathen and bound neither to the law 
of the Christians nor to the Jewish faith. One of them 
was named Craton: he was a great philosopher and 
thoroughly versed in all learning; he was a friend of 
mighty men and enjoyed their favor; but never had 
he cared for more of this world's riches than what he 
needed for clothes and food. And when great men some- 
times gave him more than he required, he would give 
away what he did not consume to such as were needy. 
It was also in his nature to speak little but truthfully, 
and no man knew that falsehood had ever been found 
on his lips; wherefore all felt that the merits of wisdom 
and good character which he possessed would surely 
make him worthy to judge in these important matters. 
The other who was chosen judge was named Zenophi- 
lus; he was a famous and powerful prince, and where he 
directed the government it was not known that he had 
ever swerved from justice. He was a great master of 
eloquence and learned in all science, friendly in speech 
and affable, though a man of authority. Nor could any- 


one recall that falsehood had ever been found on his 
lips. These having been chosen to act as judges in be- 
half of all present, the Christians and the Jews held a 
court; and these two decided all the disputes, as they 
were chosen to do, and it was found as before that in 
no wise did they deviate from justice.* 

I have cited these instances that you might appre- 
ciate the [humility and rightmindedness of both the 
emperor and the queen; for though they were lords of 
the entire world, they regarded it as proper to sit in 
obedience to chosen judges who were much inferior to 
themselves in both power and wealth and every other 
respectjLikewise you are to appreciate what great honor 7 
these men gained through their wisdom and upright- ^ 
ness; for though they were both heathen, they were ) 
superior to all others as to insight into the holy faith / 
and the world's welfare.lA.nd now you will appreciate 
what I told you earlier in our conversation, namely, 
that much depends on the example that a man leaves 
after him. Joseph lived before the birth of our Lord 
Jesus Christ; he was sold for money into Egypt as an 
alien thrall; but his faithfulness and humility pleased 
God so highly that he was made ruler next to the king 
of all those who were native to the land and had wealth 
and kinsmen there, whether they were rich or poor. It 
is many hundred winters since Joseph died, but his 
glory still lives and is daily recalled among all thought- 
ful people throughout the world. Queen Vashti died 

* The author's source for his account of the council where Craton and Zenophi- 
lus served as judges is the legend of Pope Silvester, probably the Old Norse 
version of the legend, Silvesters Saga, published by linger in Heilagra Manna 
Sogur, II, 245-286. 



long before the birth of Christ, as did Haman the prince; 
but the disgrace that came upon them because of their 
pride and folly still lives. Queen Esther bears even to 
this day the living honor which she gained through her 
humility; though she was brought to India * as a cap- 
tive bondmaiden, she was later made queen over many 
large kingdoms and seated upon the throne from which 
Queen Vashti was banished. 

Although the events that we last related in speaking 
of Emperor Constantine and his mother Queen Helena 
happened after the birth of Christ, it was still so long 
ago that no man can recall them because of their an- 
tiquity; yet they are bright with honor even to this day. 
Craton and Zenophilus, though they are dead, are cele- 
brated for their wisdom and righteousness. Though both 
were heathen men, they were chosen to be judges over 
nearly all the people who were in the world, and were 
even trusted in behalf of all men, both Christians and 
Jews, to pass judgment on those laws which neither of 
them kept, but upon which the welfare of the world 
nevertheless depended. From such occurrences you will 
realize that God holds in His hand the tiller with which 
He turns and moves the hearts of great lords whenever 
He wishes, and controls all their thoughts according to 
His will. For King Pharaoh raised up Joseph to a do- 
minion above that of all the other princes who were in 
the kingdom before him. Ahasuerus deprived Vashti of 
her queenship, though she was both wealthy and high- 
born, and appointed Esther queen in her stead. He also 

* Not India but Persia in the Biblical story; but the Northmen in the middle 
ages used the term India very much as we use the term Orient today. 


hanged Haman, the renowned prince, and gave all his 
power to Mordecai, who was once a bondman brought 
captive from a strange land. Emperor Constantine 
placed Craton and Zenophilus, two heathen men, in the 
judgment seat and trusted them to pass judgment on 
the verities and the interpretation of the holy faith. 
Now you shall know of a truth that all these events 
have come to pass through God's providence and secret 
commands; and all these things are noted down for the 
memory of men in the future, so that all may learn and 
derive profit from the good examples, but shun the evil 
ones. And if it should be your fortune to become a kings- 
man, remember these examples that I have now shown 
you (and there are a great many others like them which 
we have not mentioned in this speech); and be sure to 
follow all those which you see are likely to profit you. 



Son. God reward you, sire, for taking so much time 
to hear all my questions and for giving such very patient 
and useful answers: for these talks will surely lead me 
to think and observe more accurately than I did before. 
It may also be that others will study Jbbfise fcampH His- \ 
courses in the future and derive knowledge, good in- 1 
sight, and profitable manners from them. There are, 
however, several other things which I have in mind to 
investigate and wish very much to ask about. And there- 
fore I beg you not yet to grow weary of teaching me; 
for your permission gives me courage to confide so fully 


in you that I am not likely to overlook anything that 
my mind is eager to know. Indeed, it seems to me that 
this subject opens up such a wide field, that there must 
be many things left which one needs to know and dis- 
cern fully, if one wishes to be rated a worthy man by 
kings or other great lords; and I am eager to hear you 
talk further about these matters. 

But for this once I wish to inquire about men of 
greater importance than those who have to serve the 
mighty. I see clearly that those who serve are in duty 
bound to strive after the best manners, knowledge, wis- 
dom, and righteousness; but it would seem that those, 
who are chiefs and rulers and whom all others must 
serve, owe an even greater duty to seek both knowledge 
and insight; above all it must be their duty to love 
every form of righteousness, since they have authority 
to punish all others who are not righteous. Therefore I 
wish to ask with your permission what customs the king 
himself should observe which would accord with his 
regal dignity. Tell me clearly so that I can understand 
what business or conduct is demanded of him early in 
the morning and what affairs he is later occupied with 
the day; for [he is so highly honored and 

exalted upon earth that all must bend and bow before 
him as before God A So great is his power that he may 
dispose as he likes of the lives of all who live in his king- 
dom: he lets him live whom he wills and causes him to 
be slain whom he wills. But I have observed this, that 
if a man becomes another's banesman, all upright men 
from that time on have an aversion for him as for a 
heathen; since to slay a man is counted a great sin for 



which the one who commits it must suffer great penance 
and much trouble before Christian people will again ad- 
mit him to fellowship. And again, you told me in an 
earlier speech to shun manslaughter; but you added 

that all manslaughter committed by royal command or 
in battle I need shun no more than any other deed which 
is counted good. Now if the king has received such great 
authority from God that all slaughter done by his com- 
mand is without guilt, I should imagine that he must 
need to be very wise, cautious, and upright in all his 
doings; and therefore I wish to have you explain fully 
the things that I have now asked about, unless you feel 
that my questions are stupid, or that I am presuming 
too much in showing curiosity about the doings of such 
great men. 

Father. Your questions are not stupid, for we may 
just as well talk about how the king has to order his 
government or his conduct as about other men. It surely 
is his bounden duty to seek knowledge and understand- 
ing, and he ought indeed to be well informed as to what 
has occurred in the past, for in that way he will gain 
insight for all the business that pertains to his kingship. 
You have stated that he is highly honored and exalted 
on earth and that all bow before him as before God; 
and the reason for this is that/Ee king represents divinex/ /*''/ "*'/ * 
lordship: for he bears God's own name and sits upon c 
the highest judgment seat upon eartSJ wherefore it \ 
should be regarded as giving honor to God Himself, 
when one honors the king, because of the name which 
he has from God. The son of God himself, when he was 

__ _ 

on earth, taught by his own example that all should 


honor the king and show him due obedience; for he 
commanded his apostle Peter to draw fishes up from 
the depth of the sea and to open the mouth of the fish 
that he caught first, and said that he would find a penny 
there, which he ordered him to pay to Caesar as tribute 
money for them both. From this you are to conclude 
thatfit jsthe duty of every one upon earth to respect and 
' honor the royal title which an earthly man holds from 
Godftfor the very son of God thought it proper to honor 
the royal dignity so highly that he, to the glory of king- 
ship, made himself subject to tribute along with that 
one of his disciples whom he made chief of all his apostles 
and gave all priestly honors. 



Son. There remains one thing, which, as usual, I 
shall need to have explained further, as it is not very 
clear to me. You stated, and it seems reasonable, that 
the king holds a title of high honor and dignity from 
God Himself; but I do not see clearly why God made 
Himself subject to the tribute of an earthly king; since 
He must, it seems to me, be above all kings, seeing that 
He rules the earthly as well as the heavenly kingdom. 

Father. That God Himself has honored earthly kings 
you will observe from the fact that, when He came down 
tp^ earth from the loftiest pinnacles of heaven, He re- 
garded Himself as having come among men as a guest 
and did not wish to claim a share in the earthly king- 
ship, though he might have done so. But He fulfilled the 



words that(D avid/had spoken: " TheJLpjx^ruleth in the 
Heavens, but verily he hath given an earthly fcjngHom 
to the sons of men." * Now God, while He was on earth, 
wished to honor earthly kings and kingdoms rather 
than disparage them in any way;for He would not 
deprive the earthly kingship of what He had formerly 
given into the control of earthly lords; but God showed 
a perfect obedience to Caesar. You should also observe 
that, just as God commanded His apostle Peter to ex- 
amine the first fish that he drew and take a penny from 
its mouth (and God did not want him to examine the 
second fish or the third, but the first only), similarly 
every man should in all things first honor the king and 
the royal dignity. For God Himself calls the king His 
anointed, and every king who possesses the full honors 
of royalty is rightly called the Lord's anointed. ")tn like 
manner one of God's apostles said in a sermon while 
instructing the people in the true faith: " Fear God and 
honor your king," | which is almost as if he had 
literally said thathe who does not show perfect honor 
to the king does not fear God, j 

Every king, as you have said, ought, indeed, to be 
wise, well-informed, and above everything upright, that 
he may be able to realize fully that he is after all merely 
a servant of God, though he is honored and exalted so 
highly in the supreme service of God, that all bow down 

* The reference is evidently to Psalms, cxv, 16: " The heavens, even the 
heavens, are the Lord's: but the earth hath he given to the children of men " 
(King James' version). The Vulgate reads (cxiii, 16), "Caelum caeli Domino; 
terrain autem dedit filiis hominum." In neither case is the idea of an earthly 
kingship implied. It is evident that the author is quoting and translating 
from memory, 
t / Peter, ii, 17. 





before him as before God; for in so doing they worship 
God and the holy name which the king bears but not 
the king himself .^It is, therefore, in the very nature 
of kingship to inspire all with a great awe and fear of 
the king, wherefore every one trembles who hears him 
named. But he ought also to appear gracious and 
friendly toward all good men, lest any one should fear 
him so much as to be deterred from presenting any im- 
portant request to him because of his severity. 

In the night, as soon as the king is sated with sleep, 
it should be his duty and businesslto center his thoughts 
upon the kingdom as a whole and to consider how his 
plans may be formed and carried out in such a way that 
God will be well pleased with the care that he gives to 
,the realm! also how it may be made most/profitable and 
^obedient to himself; further what measure of firmness 
<ne must use in restraining the rich lest they become too 
/ arrogant toward the poor, and what caution in uplifting 
I the poor, lest they grow too defiant toward the wealthy;"? 
wherefore he needs to ponder and plan judiciously how 
to hold everyone to moderation in the estate in which 
he is placed. This, too, the king must be sure to keep 
in his thoughts, that when it becomes necessary to 
chastise those who are not satisfied with what God has 
planned for them, he must not be so lenient in his pun- 
Jshment, that this excessive indulgence should lead any- 
one to consider it safe to transgress what ought to stand 
as rightfully ordained. Nor must he be so severe in his 
penalties that God and rightminded men will regard 
him as punishing more from a cruel disposition than 
from a sense of justice. These things and many more a 


king ought to reflect upon at night when he is done with 
sleep, for then fewer matters will come upon him una- 
wares during the day, when the needs of the land are 
presented to him. 



Son. It is evident that a king must possess great 
constraint and an even greater sense of justice, as you 
remarked earlier, if he is to find the true mean in meting 
out punishment so as to be neither too lenient nor too 
severe. And now I wish to ask whether there are any 
examples which may guide him toward this moderation, 
inasmuch as you have stated that every king should 
have knowledge of all the examples that are to be found. 

Father. I repeat what I said then that no man needs 
to be more learned or better informed in all subjects 
than a king, for both he and his subjects have great 
need of this. But one who has a thorough knowledge of 
past events will meet but few contingencies that are 
really unexampled. Now the following examples are very 
ancient, and every king should keep them frequently 
before his eyes and seek guidance from them for the 
government of his kingdom. 

When God had created the entire world and had 
beautified it with grass and other herbage, as well as 
with birds and beasts, He appointed two human beings, 


'a man and a woman, to have dominion over everything. 
He led the two, Adam and Eve, to the highest point of 
Paradise and showed them all the birds and beasts and 
all the flowers and glories of Paradise. Then God said 
to Adam and Eve: " All these things that you now see 
I give to you for your maintenance and dominion, if 
you will keep the covenant which I now establish be- 
; tween ourselves. But these are the laws which you must 
carefully observe, if you wish to keep the gifts which I 

ive now given you: that beautiful tree which you see 
standing with lovely apples in the midst of Paradise is 
[called the tree of knowledge, and the fruit which the 
tree bears is called the apples of knowledge. This tree 
you must not touch nor may you eat of the apples which 
it bears, for as soon as you eat of them you shall die; 
but of everything else that you now see you may freely 
eat according to desire." Four sisters were called to wit- 
ness this covenant, divine virgins, who should hear the 
laws decreed and learn all the terms of the agreement: 
the first was named Truth, the second, Peace, the third, 
Justice, and the fourth, Mercy. And God spoke thus to 
these virgins: " I command you to see to it that Adam 
does not break this covenant which has been made be- 
tween Me and him: follow him carefully and protect 
him as long as he observes these things that are now 
decreed; but if he transgresses, you shall sit in judg- 
ment with your Father, for you are the daughters of 
the very Judge." 

When the speech was ended, God vanished from 
Adam's sight; and Adam went forth to view the glories 
of Paradise. But at that time the serpent, which was 


more subtle and crafty than any other beast, came in 
the guise of a maiden * to Eve, Adam's wife, and ad- 
dressed her in great friendliness: " Blessed is your hus- '; 
band and you with him, since God has given all things 
into your power; for it is now the duty of every beast to 
obey your commands, seeing that Adam is our lord and 
you are our lady. But now I want to ask you whether 
God has withheld anything upon earth from your do- 
minion, or whether you may enjoy all things as you 
wish without hesitation." Eve replied: " God has given 
us dominion over all things that he has created upon 
earth except the tree that stands in the midst of Para- 
dise; of this He has forbidden us to eat, having said that 
we shall die, if we eat thereof." The serpent said to Eve: 
" Oho, my lady ! He does not wish you to become so 
wise that you know both good and evil; for He knows 
the difference between good and evil things, while you 
know good things only. But when you have eaten of the 
apples of knowledge, you will become like God and will 
have knowledge of evil things as well as of good." As 
soon as the serpent had disappeared from Eve's sight, 
she called Adam her husband and told him all this 
speech. Then she took two of the apples of knowledge, 
ate one herself, and gave the other to Adam. But when 
they had eaten these apples, their knowledge was ex- 
tended to evil things, as the serpent had said; and they 

* The compiler of Stjdrn, an Old Norse paraphrase of the larger part of the 
Old Testament, following Petrus Comestor's Historia Scholastica, attributes 
to Bede the statement that the serpent in those days bore the face of a 
maiden (p. 34). The author of the King's Mirror cannot have used Stj6rn, as 
it seems to be a production of the fourteenth century, nor is there any evidence 
that he knew the Historia Scholastica. 


began to observe the shapes of beasts and birds and 
trees, and finally how they themselves were formed. 
Then said Adam: " We are shamefully naked, we two, 
for there is nothing to hide our limbs; beasts are covered 
with hair and tail, birds with feathers, and trees with 
branches and leaves; we two alone have shamefully 
naked limbs." Thereupon they took broad leaves from 
the trees and covered those of their members which they 
were most ashamed to have naked. Then Peace came 
forth and spoke to Adam and Eve: "Now you have 
broken the law and your covenant with God, and I will 
no longer give you the security in the open fields that 
you have thus far enjoyed; but I will keep you safe in 
a secret hiding place until judgment is pronounced in 
your case; and I give you this safety that you may have 
opportunity to present your defense. But you must take 
good care to make a plea which may profit you, and 
prove a defense rather than a detriment." Truth came 
forth and spoke to Adam: " Take heed, when you come 
to plead your case, that you do not lie, for then I shall 
testify with you; tell everything just as it happened, 
for if you lie about anything, I shall testify against you 
at once." Justice came forth and said: " It is my duty 
and office to make sure that you are not unjustly con- 
demned; but the more you are found guilty of lies and 
wrongdoing, the more shall I oppose you." Mercy came 
forth and said to Adam: "I shall add assistance and 
mercy to your plea, if you heed carefully all that my 
sisters have taught." But fear had come upon Adam 
and he went away to hide among the trees, lest he should 
be seen naked. 


At midday God went forth to view the beauties of 
Paradise and Adam's stewardship; but as He did not 
see Adam in the wide fields, He called him, asking where 
he was. Adam replied: " I hid myself, Lord, because I 
was ashamed to show myself naked before Thy face." 
God answered, saying: " Why shouldst thou be more 
ashamed of thy nakedness now than at our former meet- 
ing, unless it be that thou hast broken the law and hast 
eaten of the apples of knowledge, which I forbade thee 
to eat." Adam replied as if defending himself: " The 
woman that Thou gavest me led me into this fault; if 
I had been alone about my affairs and if Thou hadst 
not given me this wife to advise with me, I should have 
kept the appointed law and should not have trans- 
gressed Thy command." Then God said to Eve: " Why 
didst thou give thy husband this evil counsel to break 
the law ? " Eve replied as if defending her case: " The 
crafty serpent gave me that evil advice; had he not been 
created or appeared before me, I should not have come 
upon this evil design." Then God said: " Since the law 
has now been broken, I want those virgins whom I ap- 
pointed keepers of our covenant to sit in judgment with 
us. Then Truth spoke: " It is my duty and business to 
show Adam's guilt, inasmuch as he has concealed with 
a lie what most of all led him to transgress. For this was 
the chief motive in your case, that the apples were fair 
and pleasant and sweet to taste, and that you desired 
greatly to be wiser than was promised you. You com- 
mitted a theft in planning to take them secretly, cov- 
etous robbery in taking them without permission, and 
an act of insolent pride in wishing to become like unto 


God in wisdom beyond what was promised you." Then 
God said to Peace that she should give a brief opinion 
in the case. Peace answered in this wise: "Whereas 
Thou didst appoint me to watch over Adam's safety 
as long as there was no transgression, I now offer to 
bring him an even greater insecurity, because he did 
not know how to keep the great freedom which he en- 
joyed before." Then .God said to Justice that she should 
give judgment; and she answered in this wise: " Since 
Adam was unable to keep the freedom that Peace had 
secured for him, let him now suffer misery and distress 
instead; and because he coveted knowledge of evil 
things, let him experience evil in place of good; and 
because he wished to make himself like God in knowl- 
edge beyond what was permitted, and blamed God for 
his transgression with lying excuses, let him suffer the 
death of which he was warned before he transgressed." 
Then God said to Mercy that she should pass judgment 
on this transgression. Mercy replied in these words: 
"As it is my nature to urge forbearance and clemency 
to some degree in every case, I request that Adam be 
not destroyed through a merciless death; but since he 
now must repent of his error as long as he lives, let him 
have hope of mercy and help in his death, as long as he 
does not despair/' 

Then it was discussed whether, in case he had sons, 
they should suffer for his sin, or be allowed to enjoy the 
gifts and the riches that God had given him at the be- 
ginning, but from which he had been ousted like an 
outlaw. Justice said: "How can his sons, who will be 
begotten in exile, enjoy those gifts that he forfeited as 



an outlaw because of transgression ? Let his sons follow 
him to the death. But whereas he shall have hope of 
mercy and leniency and of a return to the possessions 
which he has now forfeited, let his sons be recalled with 
him through a new covenant." And when sentence had 
been passed in Adam's case, the sisters all came to a 
friendly agreement; Mercy and Truth embraced while 
Justice and Peace kissed each other with loving ges- 

Now every king ought to have these two things fre- 
quently in mind : how God appeased His anger toward 
the man and the woman for breaking the law, and what 
judges He called in, lest His punishment should be too 

* The story of the court proceedings in Paradise after the fall of man and the 
discussion between Mercy and Peace on the one side and Truth and Justice 
on the other was widely current in the thirteenth century. It made an impor- 
tant scene in certain types of mystery plays, and it seems quite likely that the 
source of the version given in the King's Mirror must be sought in some dra- 
matic representation of the creation story. The account of the trial was made 
the theme of two poems in Old French which have been attributed to the 
English ecclesiastics Archbishop Langton and Bishop Grosseteste, both of 
whom were contemporaries of our Norwegian author. 

Homilies were written on this theme in the -twelfth century by St. Bernard 
of Clairvaux (Migne, Patrologia Latina, CLXXXIII, 770) and by Hugh of St. 
Victor (ibid., CLXXVII, 623-626). There is a still earlier version of the story 
in a homily attributed, though for no good reason, to the Venerable Bede. 
According to this story a man has a son and four daughters named Mercy, 
Truth, Peace, and Justice. He also has a servant whom he wishes to try by 
giving him an easy task. The servant fails and is handed over to the 
executioner. The daughters now come into violent disagreement, but the son 
finds a way out of the difficulty: he saves the servant and succeeds in bring- 
ing the sisters into agreement. Ibid., XCIV, 505-507. 

W. Scherer, in Zeitschrift fur deutsche Altertumskunde, N. F., IX, 414-416, 
finds traces of the legend in Talmudic sources. In the Hebrew story, however, 
the disagreement is over the expediency of creating man, Mercy favoring and 
Truth opposing the project. The ultimate source appears to be Psalms, 
Ixxxv, 10: "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace 
have kissed each other." 

For bibliographical information see L. Petit du Juleville, Les Mysteres, 
II, 359. 


severe and merciless. Moreover, a king does justice to 
all men when he does justice to any man or woman; but 
all decisions which imply punishment he must always 
consider in the presence of these four sisters; and it must 
be such as will bring them into agreement, so that they 
can kiss and embrace each other, in which case the 
judgment will be neither too lenient nor too severe. A 
king ought to consider very carefully how to bring the 
minds of the sisters into agreement; for in all trials 
they are arranged and seated apart in groups; Truth 
and Justice on one side of the court and Mercy and 
Peace on the other. They should be agreed and unani- 
mous in every case; but it frequently occurs that Peace 
and Mercy give the whole suit over to Truth and Jus- 
tice, though all unite in the verdict none the less. Some- 
times it happens that each of the sisters has a full voice 
in the decision according to right reckoning; but at 
other times it may be that the larger share falls to Peace 
and Mercy; but the sisters are unanimous in the verdict 
none the less. It has also happened at times that, after 
a verdict has been reached and confirmed, Mercy and 
Peace have exercised leniency because of the prayers 
and repentance of him who was in need of it. 





Son. It looks to me now as if this is a more intricate 
matter than I thought earlier; for it must require great 
understanding and insight to harmonize the opinions 


of these sisters so that they will always be unanimous, 
seeing that the verdict sometimes leans more to one 
side than to the other. For you remarked that at times 
the whole verdict falls to Truth and Justice and no 
leniency is shown, while at other times the larger share 
may fall to Peace and Mercy; and you also stated that 
sometimes a sentence has been modified after it was 
agreed to and confirmed. Now you have stated that 
one can find examples of most things, if one looks for 
for them; and if there are any instances of such pro- 
ceedings, I should like to hear about them, so that the 
subject may look clearer to me and also to others who 
may hear about it. And it must surely be the highest 
duty of kings to be well informed on such things, as on 
all other subjects, since they will need them very fre- 

Father. The world is now so ancient that, no matter 
what comes to -pass, one is likely to find that similar 
events have occurred before; and nothing is likely to 
happen of which a learned man can find no examples. 
But of the fact that the entire judgment may fall to 

Truth and Justice, no mercy being shown, there are 


cases^which occurred so early that I know of none be- 
foxe them. [When Lucifer, an angel in heaven, turned j 
traitor and committed a base crime against his Lord, /" 
Truth and Justice condemned him to swift downfall f ~ 
without hope of pardon. Into this condemnation all \ 
his comrades and counsellors fell with him. And these ( 
were the crimes which God punished with a merciless ) 
doom. ~7 






Son. I must ask you not to take offence if the ques- 
tions which I wish to bring up should seem childish and 
ill advised; but since I do not fully understand the sub- 
ject that I intend to ask about next, it may also be that 
there are others who do not understand it any better 
than I. And it is that matter about the serpent, which, 
you said, came to Eve, and speaking to her like a man 
egged her on to transgress the law. Now I wish to ask 
whether the serpent, unlike other beasts, was created 
with power of speech; or whether other animals could 
speak in those days, though now they ar,e all dumb ; and 
for what reason the serpent wished to lead the woman 
into transgression. 

Father. We have had a very lengthy speech before us, 
and if we were to comment on the whole, it would lengthen 
very much a discussion that is already long; but certain 
it is, we have spoken very few words which would not 
be in need of comment, if a well informed man, who 
thoroughly understands all these speeches, should come 
to the task. But I believe it is more advisable for us to 
continue as we have been doing since we began our con- 
versation, and leave the task of glossing our remarks to 
others who may hear them later and are willing to do 
the work with faithful care. Still, inasmuch as every 


question looks toward some reply or solution, it is 
proper that I should enlarge somewhat on this speech, 
so as to make the subject a little clearer to you and to 
others who do not understand it better than you do. I 
shall, however, run over it in a few words only, for I do 
not care much to comment on my own remarks. 

You have asked whether serpents and other beasts 
were created with the power of speech in the days when 
Adam was appointed keeper of Paradise, and you shall 
know of a truth that the gift of speech was not given to 
any bodily creature but man. And since you wish to 
know why speech was given to the serpent and why it 
wished to lead the woman into transgression, I shall 
now proceed to explain. The explanation begins with 
the fact that God created angels before men. The angels 
were immortal spirits, free from all corporal weakness, 
and endowed with great beauty. But though created 
with perfect beauty, they were held subject to this law, \ 
that they must show love and obedience toward their S 
Creator in humility and without deceit. It was promised -' 
them that they should keep their beauty and all the 
other honors that God had given them, as long as they 
kept this law; at the same time God gave them full 
freedom to violate the law, if they wished; for He spoke 
to them in this wise: " Since you were all created at the 
same moment and none was begotten by another, each 
one of you shall decide for himself and none for another 
whether these laws that I have now ordained shall be 
kept or broken. And if there are those who transgress l 
them, they shall be driven out of this life of bliss; while / 
those who observe the laws shall continue to enjoy un- ^ 


ceasing happiness and unending life in my noble service. 
And I give you all a free choice to keep these laws or to 
break them as you may prefer, in order that those who 
observe them may be set apart as my chosen jewels, 
while those who violate them shall suffer hatred and be 
driven into cruel thralldom and wretched service." 

These angels were all fair, but one was more handsome 
than all the rest, wherefore he was called Lucifer; he 
was appointed chief of many angels and a great multi- 
tude made obeisance to him in service and friendship. 
But God having finished his speech, Lucifer turned away 
from God with all his following as if toward the north 
and spoke thus: " Why should we suffer threats from 
God in return for our service, seeing that we have power, 
beauty and numbers in full measure to maintain our 
prestige PJNow I intend, like God, to set up a high-seat 
in the northern part of heavenf and to extend a wise 
control over half of heaven or even more." Then God 
answered and said to Lucifer: "Since thou hast broken 
the law by treacherous rebellion, thou canst no longer 
have habitation with us; and whereas thou wouldst en- 
joy dominion, depart to the kingdom that is prepared 
for thee, where thou shalt have suffering instead of free- 
dom, misery instead of bliss, sorrows of every kind but 
no joy. Let all those go with thee who did not oppose 
thy design." And as God looked upon them in his wrath, 
all the heavens trembled before His countenance; and 
His enemies fled with a terrible downfall, and they suf- 

* The statement that Lucifer planned to set up a rival throne in the northern 
regions of heaven also appears in the Michaels Saga (Heilagra Manna Sogur, 
I, 677). It was apparently a common belief in medieval Christendom and was 
based on Isaiah, xiv, 13. 


fered a horrible change of countenance in the loss of 
their beauty. Thereupon they sought out the places that 
were assigned to them and were scattered about in all 
the caves of hell, each appointed to a separate service. 
In this way darkness was separated from light. 

But when God had made man and had given him a 
blissful life in Paradise, Lucifer said to his companions : 
"It is evidently God's intention to give this one the 
dominion from which He drove me out, unless he shall 
act counter to God's will. Even if God should appoint 
other angels in our stead, we could never allow it, if we 
could do anything to prevent it; but our disgrace would 
be too great, if a man formed of clay or the filthy dust 
of the earth were to enter into the eternal happiness 
from which we were expelled. Therefore we must fight 
incessantly against everyone who has such ambitions 
and revenge our injuries with fierce hatred upon all 
those whom we can overcome. Now I shall try to gain 
a victory over the first man that God has created, so 
that my companions may be able to overcome those 
who come later." Then he armed himself with seven 
wiles from which he expected great aid: the first was 
venomous envy; the second, burning hatred; the third, 
false cunning; the fourth, specious deception; the fifth, 
haughty arrogance; the sixth, covetous self-seeking; the 
seventh, lustful desire. Then he said to himself: " Inas- 
much as I am now an invisible spirit, I cannot visibly 
come to have speech with physical man, unless I adorn 
m y ugly countenance with a certain corporeal beauty. 
I shall therefore enter this serpent which God has cre- 
ated with the face of a maiden and which most resembles 


man in beauty; and I shall speak with his tongue to 
Eve, Adam's wife, and learn from her whether they are 
created to full freedom without obedience to law, or 
whether God has given them laws to keep, through 
which I may be able to ruin their covenant with Him." 
Thereupon this envious spirit sought the serpent that 
is now called the asp, which in those days walked with 
upright form on two feet like man and had a face like 
a maiden's, as we have just said. And when the evil 
minded spirit came to Eve concealed in the body of this 
serpent, he made use of the artifice that is called specious 
deception, for he spoke to Eve with seductive sweetness 
using these words: "Blessed is thy husband and thou 
likewise." This praise he did not give them out of good 
will; rather did he praise their happiness in order to 
drag them into misery through hatred and envy, and 
he used false cunning when he asked Eve to tell him 
whether God had given everything to Adam to control 
and to enjoy without restriction. But when Eve in re- 
turn for his sweet words had given the desired informa- 
tion, and he heard that death was to be their part if 
they transgressed, he was glad, and then made use of 
haughty arrogance in suggesting to Eve that they could 
become like God in knowledge in this respect, that they 
might be able to know good from evil. But he used lust- 
ful desire when he bade her try how sweet and fragrant 
was the apple of knowledge which was forbidden her. 
And he employed covetous self-seeking when he caused 
Eve to take for her own what God had earlier forbidden 
her; for God had given everything into the power of 
Adam and Eve, except this tree; but they longed to 


have this even without permission, though everything 
else was in their power. They knew this one difference 
between good and evil, that good was better than evil; 
wherefore they feared the death that was assured them. 
But having never tasted the bitterness of evil, they 
could not know what great misery they would suffer 
for transgression; but they thought it would be a great 
distinction to be like God in knowledge, and to know 
the difference between good and evil things. But when 
the serpent urged Eve to eat of the apples of knowledge, 
she began to fear death, and replied thus to the serpent: 
" I fear that, if I eat, I shall die, for such is God's 
threat. Now do you eat first while I look, and if you do 
not die, I will eat, for if this fruit really does possess 
death dealing powers, it will surely prove baneful to 
other living beings besides me." Then the spirit that 
was concealed in the serpent said to himself: " I may 
indeed eat the apple, for it will make me no more guilty 
or mortal, inasmuch as I am already in the full wrath 
of God." But these words the woman did not hear. 
Then Eve took an apple and placed it in the serpent's 
mouth and he ate forthwith. And when she saw that 
it did him no harm, she immediately picked another 
apple and ate; and she found it very sweet, just as the 
serpent had told her. 

Thereupon the serpent vanished from Eve's sight; 
but she called Adam her husband and told him these 
things. But because he, too, feared the death that God 
had threatened, he would not eat, unless he should see 
Eve eat first. So Eve took two more apples and boldly 
ate the one forthwith, for she had already tasted the 


sweetness of the fruit, and instead of feeling shame for 
what she had already done, she longed to taste it of tener. 
When Adam saw that it did her no harm (and he even 
observed a pleasurable sweetness upon her lips), he 
took the apple that she had offered him and ate just 
as she had done. But when they had eaten the apple, 
their eyes were opened to a greater knowledge than 
they had had before, just as the serpent had predicted: 
for immediately they were ashamed of their naked 
limbs, since they saw that the bodies of the birds were 
covered with feathers and those of the beasts with hair, 
while their own bodies were naked, and they were much 
ashamed of that. But most of all did it shame them to 
know that their transgression had made them guilty 
before God; and they bore their bodies in fear and were 
ashamed of their naked limbs. Soon they went to hide 
among the trees, thus giving proof of their shortsighted- 
ness, for they did not realize that God had such knowl- 
edge of His handiwork and all the things that He had 
made, that neither bushes nor forests could hide them 
from His sight, since even the secret hiding places in the 
caverns of hell lie bare and visible before His eyes at 
all times. 

But while Adam was in hiding, God spoke to the 
spirit that was concealed in the serpent: " Through 
pride and evil intent thou didst raise the first rebellion, 
there being none to ensnare thee, only thine own pride 
and envy; wherefore Mine anger rages against thee 
without mercy, and thou has forfeited eternal happi- 
ness and all hope of returning to it. Thou hast now a 
second time stirred My heart to anger because of the 


sin that has just been committed. Adam will have to 
suffer punishment for his transgression, but he shall 
still have hope of return and mercy, because he came 
into My wrath on account of thy wickedness and se- 
ductive guile. And as thou overcamest Adam's wife 
while she was yet a virgin, so shall one of her daughters, 
also a virgin, win a triumph over thee. And just as thou 
seemest now to have led Adam with all his possessions 
and kinship as spoils into thy dominion, so shall one of 
his sons search all thy garners and carry all thy treasures 
away as spoils; and leading forth Adam and all his faith- 
ful kinsmen out of thy power in a glorious triumph, he 
shall appoint him to an honored place among his sons 
in the kingdom which thou wert fittingly deprived of. 
And as a green tree bore the fruit through which thou 
hast now won thy victory, so shall a dry tree bear the 
fruit through which thy victory shall be brought to 
naught." Then God spoke to the serpent in which the 
spirit had concealed himself: " Cursed art thou before 
all the beasts upon earth; because thou hast received 
Mine enemy and concealed him from the eyes of Eve 
to the end that, hidden in thee, he might win a victory 
over mankind. Therefore shalt thou lose the likeness to 
a maiden's face which thy countenance has borne and 
shalt henceforth bear a grim and ugly face hateful to 
mankind; thou shalt lose the feet that bore thy body 
upright and henceforth crawl upon breast and belly. 
Bitter and unclean dust shall be thy food, because thou 
atest of the apple which thou tookest from the hand of 
Eve. Thou shalt be a self-chosen vessel of venom and 
death as evidence that thou didst hide venomous envy 


in thy body. I declare the covenant sundered between 
thee and all mankind; thy head and neck shall be 
crushed under the heel and the tread of men in revenge 
for the treachery which mankind has suffered through 
thy slippery cunning. And since thou didst cause man 
to break the law with his mouth and in eating, the 
spittle that comes forth from the mouth of a fasting 
man shall prove as dangerous a venom to thy life, if 
thou taste it, as thy venom is to man, if he taste it." 

Then God, calling Adam and Eve, asked where they 
were. And Adam replied: " We hid ourselves, Lord, be- 
ing ashamed to appear naked before Thy face." In the 
first word that Adam answered God, he lied to Him; 
for they knew themselves guilty of violating the law 
and hid for that reason; but Adam concealed this in the 
answer that he gave to God. Then God said to him: 
" Why should you be more ashamed of your nakedness 
now than when we last talked together, unless it be that 
you have increased in knowledge from eating the apples 
that I forbade you ? " But when Adam saw that he 
could not conceal how they had broken the law, he 
sought to escape by placing the blame for the act on 
another rather than on himself, for he answered in these 
words: " If I had been alone about my affairs and if 
Thou hadst not given me this woman to advise with 
me, I should have kept the appointed law and would 
not have broken Thy commands." These words added 
greatly to Adam's guilt in God's eyes, for he sought de- 
fense rather than mercy. But if he had spoken in this 
wise: "Remember now, O Lord, that I am formed of 
fragile stuff like a pot of brittle clay, and am in greater 


need of Thy forbearance and mercy than the merits of 
my case can demand, for in my weakness I have fallen 
into great guilt against Thee, O Lord, because of my 
transgression," then his guilt would at once have 
been lessened in the sight of God, inasmuch as he would 
be seeking mercy but not defense. But when God heard 
Adam replying as if excusing himself, He said as if in 
wrath: " Thou shalt put no blame upon Me for creating 
the woman; for I gave her to thee to be a delight and 
a companion, not that thou shouldst commit law-break- 
ing by her counsel. I even warned thee not to transgress 
and told thee what guilt threatened if thou didst break 
the law. Why then didst thou follow thy wife's miserable 
advice rather than My saving counsel, if thou didst not 
do it through pride and avarice, wishing to equal Me 
in knowledge and therefore eager to know what was 
not promised thee ? " 

After that God spoke to Eve: " Why didst thou egg 
thy husband on to transgress ? " And Eve was anxious 
that another should bear the blame for her guilt rather 
than herself, for she spoke in this wise: " This crafty ser- 
pent gave me that evil advice; had he not been created 
or appeared before me, I should not have transgressed 
or egged on my husband to transgress." When God 
heard Eve's excuse, He spoke in His wrath: " It looks 
to Me as if you both wish to blame Me for your law- 
breaking: Adam blamed Me for having created thee to 
advise with him, and now thou findest fault with Me 
for having created the serpent. I created the serpent as 
I created all the other beasts of the earth, but I did not 
give him to you as a counsellor; on the contrary, I made 


him subject to your dominion like all the other beasts 
of the earth. I warned you both to commit no sin and 
told you to look for death, if you did. Now your deed 
appears no better in your defense than before in the 
transgression; wherefore you shall suffer the death with 
which I threatened you. Though you may not immedi- 
ately fall down dead, you shall, nevertheless, in your 
death suffer a long punishment for your offence, and all 
your offspring shall be responsible with you for this 
transgression. And the while that you live upon earth 
you shall suffer sorrowful distress instead of enjoying 
the blissful freedom which you knew not how to keep. 
And whereas thou didst transgress before Adam, I will 
increase thy troubles beyond what you are both to suf- 
fer: thou shalt be subject to the control of thy husband 
and to all his commands, and shalt therefore seem of 
lesser importance and lower in the sight of thy sons. 
The children that thou shalt conceive in lustful passion 
thou shalt bring forth in pain and imminent peril; it 
shall also be thy duty to give thy children all forms of 
service in toil and troublesome care while bringing them 

Then God said: " Adam has now become as wise as 
any one of us, knowing good and evil. Have care that he 
does not eat from the tree of life without permission, 
as he did of the apples of knowledge, lest he live eter- 
nally in his guilt." Thereupon God appointed Cherubim 
to guard the path leading to the tree of life with a flam- 
ing sword which constantly turned its fiery edge in 
every direction so that none could pass forward with- 
out permission. Then God said to Adam: "Because 


thou didst hearken to thy wife's evil advice rather than 
to my good counsel 'and hast eaten of the forbidden 
fruit, the earth, which gave thee all manner of desirable 
fruit in her motherly kindness, shall be cursed through 
thy deed. As if in sorrowful wrath, she shall refuse thee 
such herbs as thou mayest think suitable for food: 
thistles and weeds shall she give thee for herbs, unless 
thou till her soil with labor and drench it with thy sweat; 
for henceforth thou shalt gain thy food upon earth with 
toil." Thereafter God gave Adam and Eve coats of skin 
and said to them: "Since you are ashamed of your 
naked limbs, cover yourselves now with the garments 
of travail and sorrow and fare forth into the wide fields 
to find your food with irksome toil. And finally you 
shall rest in the deathlike embraces of earth and be 
changed again naturally into the mortal materials from 
which you were made in the beginning." Then said 
Adam: " For justice and mercy I thank Thee, O Lord, 
for I see clearly how greatly I have sinned; likewise do 
I own Thy grace in that I am not to suffer merciless 
destruction like Lucifer. Sorrowing shall I descend into 
the deathlike shadows of hell; yet I shall ever rejoice 
in the hope of returning; for in this I trust to Thee, O 
Lord, that Thou wilt show me the light of life even in 
the darkness of death. And I shall ever look forward to 
the day when he, who is now rejoicing in my misfortune 
as in a victory won, shall be afflicted by our returning 
as one who is overcome and deprived of victory." Then 
Eve said: " Though we now depart in sorrow, Lord, be- 
cause of our great misdoing, we shall take joy in Thy 
merciful lenience in our distress." Then God disappeared 


from their sight; and they began to till the earth as God 
had commanded. 

Now I have done as you requested, having explained 
briefly why the serpent sought speech with the woman 
and what caused him to egg the woman on to violate 
the law. Still, I have taken up only what is most easily 
grasped in this speech; for the task of glossing our dis- 
course after deep meditation I prefer to leave to others. 
But let us continue straight ahead in the discussion as 
we have begun, since we do not have time to do both. 



Son. I now see clearly why you regard the answers 
to my last questions as glosses and interpretations of 
the speeches which you gave earlier rather than a con- 
tinuation of our original plan; and I fear that, if I 
should ask you to enlarge further upon this subject, 
you will consider my questions unwise. But having been 
granted freedom to ask about whatever I have the curi- 
osity to know, I shall venture another question: and I 
shall continue to look for good answers as before, even 
though my questions be childish. Now you have brought 
out that, when the serpent spoke to the woman as he 
did, it was the spirit speaking with the serpent's tongue. 
You have likewise shown me why the woman was led 
into sin; that Lucifer was inspired by malicious envy 
to hinder man from coming into the dominion from 
which he himself had been expelled. And in your dis- 
cussion of the judgments of God you had something to 


say both about Lucifer and about Adam, which I am 
not sure has often been heard before. Now if I should 
on occasion recall these remarks and repeat them as I 
have heard you state them, it may be that someone hear- 
ing me will say that he has never heard this account 
beforehand therefore I want to ask you to tell me what 
facts I could state in my reply, so that I shall not seem 
to withdraw my statements on account of ignorance 
but rather find such means to support them, that all 
will think them true rather than false. 

Father. The glosses to a speech are like the boughs 
and branches of a tree. First the roots send up a stem 
which again branches out into many limbs and boughs. 
And whatever limb you take, if you examine it with 
proper care, you will find it joined to the stem which 
originally sprang up from the roots; and all the boughs 
and branches draw nourishment from the roots from 
which the stem grows. But if you hew off a limb and 
cast it far away from the tree, and one should find it 
who knows not where it grew, it will look to him like 
every other branch which he finds on his way, seeing 
that he does not know where it has grown. But if he 
carries it back to the stem from which it was cut and 
fits it there, the branch itself will testify as to what 
roots it sprang from. It is the same with the interpre- 
tation of a sermon; if a man knows how to present a 
speech properly, he will also know how to interpret it 
correctly. But as I hear that some things have been in- 
troduced into this discussion which have not often been 
heard, I will now do the questioning for a while, since 
I have answered more than I have asked. And first I 


wish to ask whether this speech included anything that 
you already knew. 

Son. There were a few things but not many. I have 
heard it quoted from Lucifer's words that he intended 
to set his throne as high as that of God; but the answer 
that God gave to this I had never heard interpreted be- 
fore, but now you have explained it. 

Father. Let me ask again : who do you suppose it was 
that, standing by, heard Lucifer's boastful and treacher- 
ous words and quoted them afterwards ? 

Son. I have never heard his name spoken and I am 
not sure that they were told by any one who heard them 
at the beginning. 

Father. But this you shall know of a surety, that if 
Lucifer's words have been quoted by one who heard 
them in the beginning, he surely must have heard those 
replies of God also, which I have just given; and he 
could have reported both speeches, had he wished, since 
he heard either both or neither. But if he reported Luci- 
fer's treacherous boasting as he divined it, he surely 
could have thought out God's truthful statement of his 
vengeance in the same way; for either both or neither 
would be true. For at the very moment when Lucifer 
/* transgressed, whether in thought or in words, God had 
[ already purposed all the vengeance that was to befall 
O him from the first hour to the last. So great and all- 
) sufficient are God's thoughts and wisdom, that the vision 
/ of the divine foresight sees in the twinkling of an eye all 
I the events that shall come to pass from the first hour 
to the very last. But He withholds in divine patience 
all the things that He intends shall come to pass, until 


suitable times appear; and He will let everything happen 
as He has purposed it heretofore. Now if God should 
have endowed any one with such great insight and wis- 
dom that he could know all the thoughts of God and 
should report them as if God had disclosed them in 
word or speech, he would by no means be telling false- 
hoods; for all that God has purposed has been told him 
in his thoughts, whether his lips have spoken about 
them or not. The apostle Paul tells us that God has 
given men his Holy Spirit with a definite office and ac- 
tivity: some receive a spirit of prophecy, some a spirit 
of knowledge and wisdom, some a spirit of eloquence, 
some a spirit of understanding, and some a spirit of 
skill; * some have these gifts in large measure, others 
in less; some enjoy one of these gifts, others two, still 
others three, while some have all, each one as God wills 
to endow him. 

But those who, like King David, have received both 
the spirit of understanding and of eloquence, have ven- 
tured to compose speeches and write books in order that 
the speeches shall not perish. In some places David has 
told of God's purposes, in other places of His deeds, 
and in still other places he has reported His words; and 
those who in times past have written glosses to the 
psalms which David composed have had more to say 
about what was in David's mind than about the words 
that he wrote. For to every word they have added long 
comments of what David had in thought when he spoke 
this word; and in these comments they point out the 
meaning which he had in his thoughts at every word 

* I Corinthians, xii, 4-10. 


that he wrote in the Psalter. In like manner they have 
proceeded, who have interpreted the words of the Evan- 
gelists, and they have brought out much that the Evan- 
gelists have left unsaid. Thus they have shown that 
their comments are on the words of thought which the 
lips had left unspoken. And if one has received the 
God-given spirit of a perfect understanding, he has a 
gift of such a nature that, when he hears a few spoken 
words, he perceives many words of thought. But David 
did not himself gloss the Psalter for the reason that he 
wished to leave to others the task of expressing all those 
thoughts which came up in his mind, while he continued 
writing the Psalms as originally planned. Thus all do 
who have a speech on the tongue which ought to be in- 
terpreted: they proceed with the discourse as planned 
and begun, and leave to others the task of expressing 
in words what is in their thoughts. Still, you should 
know that no one has glossed the sayings of David who 
sat by him, while he was composing the Psalter, and 
asked what was in his mind at the time. And from this 
you will perceive that it is the grace of the spirit of in- 
sight which guides such men to examine the foundations 
of the sermons that they hear. Next they investigate 
how widely the roots ramify which lie beneath the 
speech; they consider carefully how many limbs grow 
out of it; and finally they make a count of the branches 
that sprout from each limb. They also note precisely 
what bough they take for themselves, that they may be 
able to trace it correctly back to the roots from which it 
originally grew. Now if you understand this thoroughly 
and if you investigate with care and precision every- 


thing that you hear told, you will not fall into error, no 
matter whether the comments that you hear be right 
or wrong, if God has given you the spirit that leads to a 
right understanding. For every man who is gifted with 
proper insight and gets into the right path at the be- 
ginning will be able to find the highways of reason and 
to determine what expressions are suitable and will best 
fit the circumstances. Now gather from .these things 
whatever you can that may give insight; but it does not 
seem necessary to discuss them further. 





Son. God reward you, sire, for being so patient in 
answering all the questions that I am asking. I find, 
however, that you think my queries wander about in 
a childish way, but as I cannot keep to the subject of 
the conversation that we have begun, my questions will 
come down here and there, as one might expect of youth- 
ful ignorance. Still, it seems that it is better to have 
asked than not about the matter that I brought up last, 
namely, how one is to determine whether the glosses 
are correct or not. Now I understand perfectly your 
statement that a man does not tell a lie about God, if 
he tells God's purposes as if they were His own words; 
for whatever God has determined in His own soul, He 
has already spoken to Himself in His thoughts, whether 
He has uttered them with His lips or not; wherefore 


those things may be interpreted as if spoken, because in 
His mind He has spoken all that to Himself. This, too, 
is clear to me, that, although no one is able to divine 
what God had in mind at the beginning, He has Himself 
revealed it in letting those things come to pass which 
He had thought and purposed; for it seems very evident 
that all those things which God has allowed to occur, 
He had thought upon and wisely planned in his own 
mind, before they came to pass. It is also quite clear 
to me that those who have added explanatory glosses 
to the writings of David, or other men who have written 
sermons and set them in books, have developed their 
interpretations by studying out what fundamental 
thought or purpose had since the beginning lain under- 
neath the words. Afterwards they wisely considered 
this, too, with what truth probability might be able to 
account for every branch and twig of that discourse, 
so that the contents might be revealed. Now since these 
things begin to look somewhat clearer to me, it may be 
that I shall continue to reflect upon them, if God gives 
me the necessary insight. But since I realize that you 
feel it would be a large and tedious task both to con- 
tinue the discourse already begun and to make suitable 
comments, I will now ask you to return to the subject 
before us and to continue setting forth the judgment 
of God, giving cases in which He allowed the sentence 
to be carried out with severity according to the verdict 
of Justice and Truth, and others in which He showed 
greater leniency. 

Father. The following instances occurred long after the 
fall but had a similar outcome. Pharaoh, the king of 


Egypt, suffered a merciless doom by the judgment of 
Truth, and Justice.* Dathan and Abiram were justly 
doomed and destroyed.! When Joshua led the people 
of Israel into the land that God had promised them 
God ordered him to punish the people who dwelt in the 
city called Jericho with such severity that whatever 
was living should perish. J Long after that, when King 
Saul led an invasion into Amalek, God commanded him 
to slay everything that was living; but Saul incurred 
the anger of God because he did not carry out what was 
commanded.! The case of Judas, one of the apostles of 
God, is among the examples that belong to a much later 
date: for Truth and Justice condemned him without 
mercy for dastardly treachery toward his Lord. There 
are many similar cases, though we have given these 
only; and, inasmuch as our speech would get too long, 
we cannot include in a single discourse all the examples 
that we know resemble these. But when God decreed 
all these punishments which we have now recounted, 
the sisters were all on the judgment seat with Him, 
Truth and Justice, Mercy and Peace, and they all agreed 
with Him and kissed and embraced each other. 


Son. It is quite evident that in the cases which you 
have now recounted, Truth and Justice had a larger 
part in the verdict than Peace and Mercy. But no one 
can doubt that the sisters were all agreed in these de- 

* Exodus, xiv. f Numbers, xvi. J Joshua, vi. / Samuel, xv. 


cisions, for we may be sure that God never passes t a 
merciless judgment. One will consequently need to pon- 
der these things with careful attention and close think- 
ing; for the judgments of God are largely concealed from 
men. Therefore I wish to ask you to point out those 
cases in which Mercy and Peace have chiefly dictated 
the verdict, so that I may get insight into dooms of 
both kinds, seeing that examples of both are to be found. 
Father. There are so many cases of either class, that 
we cannot include all the verdicts in one discussion; 
still, we can point out a few of them, in order that both 
your questions may be answered. The following are 
events which occurred long ago, when Aaron and Ur, 
the bishops,* committed a great sin against God in that 
they gave His people two calves made of molten gold, 
through which the entire nation was led astray from 
the faith; for the people called these calves the gods of 
Israel and brought sacrifices to them as to God. But 
when Moses came down to the people (he had been up 
on the mountain where he had spoken to God Himself) , 
the bishops ran to meet him, deeply repenting their 

and, falling at Moses' feet, they begged him to inter- 
cede for them with God, lest He be angered with them 
according to their deserts. But when God saw how 
deeply the bishops repented, He heard Moses' prayer, 
and the bishops retained the dignities which they had 
before, and they did penance for their sin. The instance 

* Exodus, xxxii. No high priest by the name of Ur is mentioned in this con- 
nection; but Hur, the son of Caleb, is associated with Aaron on two earlier 
occasions. See ibid., xvii, 10; xxiv, 14. There was a legend that Ur refused to 
make the golden calf and that the people spitting into his face suffocated him 
with the spittle. Petrus Comestor, Historia Scholastica, c. 73: Migne, Patro- 
logia Latina, CXCVIII, 1189. 


that I have now related is one of those in which the 
greater share in the decision was assigned to Peace and 
Mercy, though Truth and Justice also consented to the 
doom; for the bishops would have suffered death for 
this offence, if Mercy had not been more lenient with 
them than they deserved. The following event is like 
this but happened much later : King David fell into this 
great sin, that he committed adultery with Uriah's wife 
and afterwards brought about the death of Uriah him- 
self. After Uriah's death David took his wife and had 
her for his own, and surely he deserved death for these 
sins. But he repented his misdeeds so deeply before God 
and begged forgiveness so humbly for the sins con- 
fessed, that God heard his prayer and did not take 
away his kingship, but even confirmed him in it, though 
he had committed these crimes.* 

The following events occurred much later at the time 
when our Lord Jesus Christ was on earth among men. 
The bishops of the Jews and all their other learned men 
became very hostile toward him and were constantly 
striving to find something for which they might re- 
proach him. So they took a woman who had openly 
committed adultery and was worthy of death according 
to the law of Moses; this woman they brought before 
Jesus and told him of her crimes. They also said that 
the law condemned her to die and asked what sentence 
he would pass in this case. Jesus replied that he who 
had never committed a sin should cast the first stone 
upon her. Then they turned away quickly, not daring 
to question him further, for they all knew themselves 

* II Samuel, xii. 


to have sinned. But Jesus said to the woman: " Woman, 
since none of those who accused thee has passed judg- 
ment in thy case, neither will I condemn thee to die; 
go in peace, but henceforth beware of sin." There is an- 
other instance which is like those that I related earlier, 
and which happened in the night when Jesus was seized. 
His apostle Peter had boastfully protested that he would 
never forsake him, though all others should leave him, 
and that he would suffer death with Jesus before he 
would desert him like a coward. But in the same night 
when Jesus was seized, Peter denied three times that 
he had been with him, and the third time he confirmed 
the statement with an oath that he had not been Jesus' 
man. Then he went away out of the hall where Jesus 
was held and immediately began to repent his sin and 
all his words and wept bitterly. Nevertheless, after 
Jesus had risen, Peter's sins were forgiven, and he re- 
tained all the honors that had been promised him before. 
There is still another event which came to pass a few 
days later when our Lord was crucified. Two thieves 
were crucified with him, one on either side; both had 
been guilty of the same crimes, murder and robbery. 
But while they hung on the cross, one of them took 
thought to repent and implored mercy of Jesus, though 
he, too, like the thieves, hung on a cross. His sins were 
pardoned and he was given sure promise of paradise on 
that very day; but his companion was condemned ac- 
cording to his deeds. 




Son. If earthly kings and other chiefs, who are ap- 
pointed to act as judges, are to adapt their decisions 
to the examples that you have now given, they must 
find it very important to learn precisely what each suit 
is based upon; for in many of these instances, it looks 
as if the cases were somewhat alike in appearance. Still, 
all the decisions in the earlier examples led to severe 
punishments, while in the later ones they all led to 
mercy and forgiveness. Therefore I now wish to ask you 
why Pharaoh, Dathan, and Abiram, the people who 
dwelt in Jericho, and those of Amalek, who were pun- 
ished by King Saul, were all destroyed without mercy. 

Father. These things were all done at the command 
of Justice and Truth, though Peace and Mercy con- 
sented. For Moses daily performed many miracles be- 
fore King Pharaoh and commanded him to release God's 
people; and he might have released them, had he wished, 
without suffering any injury thereby. He made con- 
stant promises that it should be done, but he never 
kept either word or promise. Now it was right that he 
should perish in his stubborn wickedness and evil-doing, 
since he would accept neither mercy nor pardon, though 
he had the opportunity. Dathan and Abiram, when 
Moses told them that they had done evil, became angry 
and refused to repent; and they perished without mercy 
because they sought no mercy. Those who dwelt in 
Jericho and Amalek had heard for many days that they 



had done evil both to God's people and against His will 
but they offered no atonement^ on the contrary, they 
proposed to take up arms in their defense, wherefore 
they were overcome by a merciless revenge. But those 
whom I pointed out to you in the later accounts, 
Aaron, Ur, David, and the others who were mentioned 
in those examples, did not conceal their wickedness, 
but confessed their misdeeds as they were; hoping for 
pardon, they begged mercy and clemency, and offered 
to atone, as He should determine, Who, they knew, had 
the decision in His power. And they promised that 
nevermore would they fall into such guilt, if they might 
become fully reconciled. 


Son. I now wish to ask you why such a great dis- 
tinction was made in the cases of Peter and Judas, 
though their offences appear similar. Judas returned 
the money that he had received and repented his evil 
deed; he confessed that he had sold his innocent Lord, 
and threw away the silver, saying that he would not 
keep what had come to him so wrongfully. Now he was 
destroyed, though he repented; while Peter was forgiven 
at once, because he repented. 

Father. Judas fell in the beginning into sin through 
avarice and love of wealth and took a bribe to betray 
his Lord. His repentance was such that he could not 
hope for pardon, and he asked for no mercy but pun- 
ished himself with a sudden death. But Peter wept 


bitterly in his repenjance^a^d, hoping for mercy, im- 
plored forgivenesg^Furthermore^Judas had the greater 
guilt, for he sold his Lord; and though he repented, he 
craved no pardon; and he did not abide the judgment 
of God, but condemned himself forthwith. But Peter 
denied his Lord through sudden fear and repented im- 
mediately in great sorrow; he submitted to the judg- 
ment of God and abided it, and did not condemn him- 
self as Judas did. There was a similar outcome in the 
case of the crucified thieves. Though both acknowledged 
the sins that they had committed, one prayed for mercy 
and pardon, while the other asked no mercy but spoke 
in contempt and derision rather than in prayer or seri- 
ous thought. Therefore these whom we have now named 
were saved through the merciful judgments of Mercy 
and Peace, though Truth and Justice agreed to the 



Son. I am beginning to see these things more clearly 
now and to understand why it is that the larger share 
in a verdict is sometimes assigned to Justice and Truth 
and at other times to Peace and Mercy. And now I want 
to ask you to discuss those cases which you mentioned 
earlier in which God modified the sentence agreed upon, 
and to state the causes that led to this. 

Father. To this class belong certain events which 
occurred a long time ago in the days when Moses was 
upon the mountain called Sinai. In those days the great 


mass of the people sinned grievously and even fell into 
whoredom, cohabiting with women of the heathen race. 
But so strictly had God forbidden this, that everyone 
who fell into that sin was held worthy of death. Then 
God said to Moses: "Now shalt thou cease speaking 
with Me that My wrath may have time to wax hot 
against this people which I gave into thy charge. For 
they have fallen into such grievous sins against My 
commandments that I intend to consume them all in 
My fierce wrath; and I will give thee another people, 
far better and stronger and more numerous than this 
one." At this point it would almost seem as if a definite 
sentence had been passed in the case of this nation. 
Moses, however, asked permission to intercede briefly 
in behalf of the people of Israel and, this being granted, 
he spoke these words. " I pray Thee, O Lord, to turn 
from Thy wrath and do not destroy Thy people, though 
they have done ill. Let not the Egyptians have this to 
say, that Thou didst lead Thy people out of Egypt and 
out of their dominion to consume them in the moun- 
tains and the desert; or that Thou wert unable to lead 
Thy people into the land which Thou hadst promised 
them from the beginning. Remember, O Lord, Thy serv- 
ants Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and do not destroy 
the generations that have sprung from Israel's kin 
which Thou hast Thyself promised to multiply upon 
earth and to lead securely into the land that is now 
controlled by Thine enemies." * God heard the prayer 
of Moses; His wrath was appeased, and He did not slay 
the people as He had threatened; but He gave their 

* Exodus, xxxii, 7-14. 


punishment into the hands of Moses, instructing him 
that they must not wholly escape chastisement, though 
it should not be so severe as God had threatened earlier. 
Moses returned hastily to the camp and coming upon 
the people in a tempestuous spirit and in fierce wrath, 
he slew many thousand men in that day, and in this 
way pacified the wrath of GodLNow this example shows 
how God lessened a penalty imposed,\in that He ap- 

Moses' prayer. An^ it, 

that Tipi|W nf thp <jig^ rff| Truth or Jiifltfoft 

in her rights fry t.^js jnrlgm^nt, inqgnnnnli a s Moses slew 
a great host to pacify the wrath of God. 

Mercy also had t.frqir rigMifij . flPP'^g ftinf lrtnn 

This is another instance that/shows how God has 
modified a judgment already passed.] He sent Jonah 
the prophet to Niniveh with orders to tell the king and 
all the people of the city that within thirty days Nini- 
veh should be destroyed with all that was therein. 
Jonah did as God commanded and told these things as 
true tidings. But when the king understood that the 
people were of a truth in danger of divine wrath (for the 
nation was full of whoredoms and wickedness of every 
form) he descendedlrom his throne, laid aside his royal 
robes, and did penance and fasted; and he bade all 
men in the city do likewise, both young and old. And 
when God saw that they repented of their wickedness 
with sorrow and penance in many forms, He extended 
mercy and destroyed neither the city nor the people 
within it.* 

* Jonah, iii. 


Here is still another instance that points to the same 
result. Hezekiah was the name of a good king in the 
land of Israel; he fell ill and meditated deeply about 
his case, whether God intended to bring him through 
this illness or to let him die. Then God sent Isaiah His 
prophet to him; and God said to the prophet that Heze- 
kiah should die of this malady. Isaiah went to the king 
and said to him: " Take good heed and set your house 
in order and all your affairs, for God has said that you 
shall die of this illness and not live." As soon as Isaiah 
had spoken these words to the king, he departed; but 
the king turned his face to the wall and prayed for de- 
liverance in these words: "Remember, O Lord, how 
steadfast I have been in Thy service, for I have always 
opposed Thine enemies, and this people that Thou hast 
given into my keeping have I turned from much wicked- 
ness which many of them practiced before I came to the 
kingship. And there are three reasons why I am loath 
to die so suddenly now of this illness. The first, which 
I fear the most, is that I may not have kept Thy com- 
mandments fully, and if I die in a state of sin I may 
look for Thy vengeance in my death. The second is that 
I have not yet turned all Thy people wholly away from 
their evil ways; and I fear, if I die suddenly now, that 
they will soon return to their old abominations. The 
third, which I fear much, is the victory of Thine ene- 
mies over Thy people, seeing that my son is a child; and 
his power to defend the people against Thine enemies 
may prove less than is required. But if Thou wilt hear 
my prayer, O Lord, and add a few days to my life, all 
these things may be brought into a better state than 


they are at present." God heard Hezekiah's prayer and 
said to Isaiah the prophet: "Return quickly to King 
Hezekiah and tell him different tidings now from what 
thou toldest before; for I have heard his prayer, and I 
will add unto the days of his life fifteen years beyond 
what I had intended for him, and I will deliver all his 
realm from the attack of his adversaries." * 

Here is another instance which belongs to a much 
later time. In the days when Jesus Christ was here upon 
earth among men, one of his friends, Lazarus by name, 
fell ill and died of the illness. Bethany was the name of 
the town where Lazarus was buried. But when he had 
lain four days in the grave, Jesus came to Bethany. 
Now it would seem in Lazarus' case, as in that of all 
others who have departed from this world, that an ir- 
revocable sentence had been passed, seeing that he had 
lain four days a dead man in the earth, death having 
even appointed him a place in his kingdom. Jesus or- 
dered Lazarus' grave to be opened, and calling him he 
commanded him to tear himself away from the hands 
of his dead companions. Thereupon Lazarus rose from 
the dead, and he lived many days after that. There are 
many other examples of this kind, but these are the 
ones which we have preferred to bring to light; and since 
our talk has been quite long, it seems unnecessary to 
recount others, though they are plentiful. 

* II Kings, xx; Isaiah, xxxviii. The prayer is imaginary. 




Son. The more examples I hear, the more evident is 
the truth of what you stated earlier in your remarks, 
namely that(7t is very necessary for kings and other 
rulers who are in charge of justice to 

if they are to adapt their verdicts to the examples that 
we have now heard-J 

Father. You should understand this clearly that, 
since the king holds his title from God, it is surely his 
duty^to suit his decisions to divine examples^ and the 
same is true of all who are appointed to pass judgment, 
both clerks and laymen. For we no longer have oppor- 
tunity to ask counsel on any point from God's own lips, 
as Moses could; wherefore men should live according 
to the examples that were set in those days when it was 
possible to inquire of God Himself what His will was 
on any matter. Therefore, a king ought to jkeep j:hese 
examples frequently upon his lips and before his eyes, 
and such other examples, too, as may give insight for 
his own decisions. (The most favorable time for such 
\meditatiofl[is at night or in the early morning when he 
is sated with sleeplBut when the hour to rise comes and 
it is time for the king to hear the hours, it is his duty 
to^go to church and listen attentively to the mass~3bid 
to join in the prayers and in chanting the psalms if he 
knows them. Like every other Christian man who is at 
prayers, the king ought to attend with as much devotion 
as if he stood in the presence of God and spoke to God 
Himself. He should call to mind the words that David 


uttered when he spoke in this wise: " I shall ever see 
the Lord before my face, for He is always at my right 
hand." * 

A king should begin his prayer by showing God that 
he holds the true faith. Next he should make clear that 
he gives thought to his earthly dominion and the divine 
power of God. Thereupon he must confess his sins and 
misdeeds to God, jnaking clear to Him that he does not 
consider himself as having come without guilt or as if 
defending his cause^Next he must beg mercy and for- 
giveness for the transgressions that he has confessed. 
He must also show God humbly that he regardsjiimself 
as coming before His knees as a thrall or a servant^ 
though God has exalted him to power among men. J5e 
must not fail to remember others besides himself in 
prayer: his queen, if he has one, who is appointed to 
rule and defend the land with him; his Kjphnpq and alJL 
Other learned^ men who are to aid |hin^ in maintain- 
ing Christianity, and, therefore, owe the duty to offer 
prayers for him and for all the other people of the king- 
dom .(He ought also to remember all his other lords and ? 
knights in his prayer and all the warriors who assist 7" 

him in the gnvprnmpnf Jjjkgjgjsp, hp must rpmpmhprV 

the husbandmen, the householders, and all his other 
subjects who maintain his kingdonL-bai-Jabor or olher 
gainful gffnrt. TTp should, therefore, remember all, men 
and women, for it is their duty to offer up holy prayers 
for him every day. And, if he likes, he may use daily 
the following prayer, which is in the form that I have 

* Probably from Psalms, xvi, 8 (Vulgate, xv, 8) : " I have set the Lord always 
before me, because He is at my right hand. ..." 


given, but he must pray as devoutly as if he were speak- 
ing to God Himself; and these are the words of the 

" O Thou most merciful God, eternal Father! O Thou 
most honored Conqueror, Jesus Christ, the only be- 
gotten Son of God! O Thou most gentle Comforter, Holy 
Spirit! O Thou perpetual fount of wisdom and complete 
and unshaken faith, Holy Trinity! O Thou indivisible 
Unity, one omnipotent, unchangeable God: Thou Who 
sittest above the highest summits of heaven and lookest 
into the hidden depths below! For no creature can 
escape Thy dominion, though it should wish to flee from 
Thy wrath. Even though I should mount to heaven, 
Thou art there before me; and though I crawl down into 
the lowest hiding places of hell, Thy spiritual dominion 
is there; and though I were to fly upon the wings of 
the winds and hide beyond the uttermost boundaries of 
the ocean solitudes, even there Thy right hand would 
seize me and lead me back into Thy control. For Thy 
mind has numbered the sands driven by the winds and 
by the power of the ocean about all the earth, and Thine 
eye knows all the drops of the dewy rain. Therefore, I 
implore Thee, O my Lord, do not enter into the seat of 
judgment with me, Thy servant, to search out my right- 
eousness; and do not number the multitude of my sins, 
but turn Thy face away from mine iniquities and cleanse 
me from my secret faults and wash away all my guilt. 
For my sins are great and lie heavy upon my head; they 
are so many that they seem numberless to me in their 
multitude, sins that I have committed in vain think- 
ing, in foolish words, in neglecting Thy commandments 


and forgetting Thy holy law in every way, in indiscreet 
testimony and thoughtless oaths, in judging unjustly 
between men, in excessive avarice, and in all manner 
of useless and evil works. I acknowledge and confess to 
Thee, O Lord, calling all Thy saints to witness, that I 
am so guilty of misdeeds and evil works, that I am al- 
ready condemned by the multitude of my transgressions, 
unless I may share in the benefits of the exceeding abun- 
dance of Thy mercy and of the good and meritorious 
intercessions of my Lady, the holy Virgin Mary, and of 
all the saints in whom Thou hast been well pleased since 
the world began. For the misdeeds and all the iniquity 
that I have committed from my childhood to this day 
are uncovered and revealed unto Thee, even though I 
might wish to conceal and not confess them; for short- 
sighted frailty was not ashamed to pursue its evil de- 
sires before Thy face. But, O Lord, inasmuch as Thou 
dost not delight in them who are destroyed in sin, but 
wouldst rather that they should live and be led aright, 
and because Thou knowest that man is frail and with- 
out strength like the dust of the earth or the crumbling 
leaf, unless Thou strengthen him with the power of Thy 
mercy, therefore, I implore Thee, do not punish me 
with the swift judgment of Thy wrath; but let Thy 
divine patience give me time and will to repent and 
abilitv^to do penance. Take away from me, O Lord, 
envy and pride, despair and stubbornness, injustice and ( 
violence, and detestable gluttony; cleanse me from the 
seven cardinal sins and the cursed vices which spring 
from them. Give me, O Lord, love and constant hope, 
true faith and humility, wisdom and justice, and ample 


strength to do Thy will at all times. Give me the seven 
cardinal gifts of the Holy Spirit with all the blessed 
fruitage that grows out of these; for I am Thy handi- 
work, created in Thine image, Thy thrall begotten in 
sin by Thy servant, the son of Thy handmaiden. But 
mercy has appointed me to Thine office and has 

*!**"' < exalted me, though unworthy, to the royal dignity and 
/ the sacred chieftainship; and Thou hast appointed me 
to judge and to govern Thy holy people. Therefore, I 
pray Thee,give more heed to the needs of Thy holy 
people, which Thou hast appointed me to rule over, than 
to my merits; put give me the right understanding, self- 
control and sense of justice, eloquence, purpose, and 
good intentions, so that I may be able to judge and de- 
termine the causes of rich and poor in such a way that 
Thou wilt be pleased, while they rejoice that justice is 
done among them. And I pray Thee, O Lord ! to pour 
out Thy spirit of upright understanding upon all my 
councillors and helpers who assist me in maintaining 
l> the government. To my queen, whom Thou hast joined 
to me with the bonds of marriage, and above all to the 
hallowed stewards and servants of holy church^ the 
rnnat. fiimnent nri^st^ | f foe bishop of Rnmft f ami all our 
bishops, abbots, and rulers, to our priests and to all the 
learned men who are in their charge^- to all these, O 
Lord, give a chaste and upright spirit, so that they may 
show their good works and set Thy people good ex- 
amples and give them right instruction. To the gov- 
ernors and to all those who assist me in guiding and 
defending the realm, give rightmindedness, abhorrence 
of evil ways, and the appreciation and love of good 


morals. Make mine enemies truly repentant of their 
evil and wickedness, cause them to desist from their 
ferocity, and turn them to a true friendship. /To Thy 
people and all the commonalty give knowledge and a 
will to love Thee, the true God, a right obedience to 
their superiors, good peace and rich harvests, and se- 
curity from enemiesjRemember. Q Lord, in Thy holy 
, all thp rarpg nf mankind fnr wh^n^ rmr LnrH 
Thrift Thinp only hpgottpn snn, shed his blood 
in redemption^ whether they be still living in this world 
or called home in holy patience by Thy commands. To 
those, O Lord, who are blinded by error and ignorance 
and therefore cannot discern Thy Holy Trinity, send 
Thy spirit of insight, that they may know and under- 
stand that Thou art the true God and none other; for 
no one may approach Thee except Thy holy compassion 
draws him to Thy love. And be not wroth with me, Thy 
servant, O Lord, because I have dared to speak with 
Thee at this time, even though I continue in prayer, but 
incline Thy compassionate ear and hear and grant what 
I pray for in Thine abundant kindness. I pray Thee, O 
Lord, never to give me into the hands of mine enemies 
because of my misdeeds, or to let me become their vic- 
tim or captive, and never to let mine enemies rejoice in 
my misfortunes, whether in body or in spirit, visible or 
invisible; but if I do aught against Thy holy will and 
commandments, take me in Thy right hand and chas- 
tise me, though not according to my deserts but accord- 
ing to the lenient judgment of Thy mercy; and give me 
abundant power and resolute strength to oppose all 
antagonism and all deception. Let me suffer no greater 


temptations than my weakness can resist; let me not 

end my days in a sudden death; and do not call me out 

of this world before I shall have repented and rightly 

atoned for all my siris; and when the strivings of this 

world have ceased, let me rest eternally with Thee and 

Thy saints. And from my heart I pray Thee, O Lord, to 

give me a lawful heir begotten of my loins, whom it may 

please Thee in Thy mercy to set after my time in the 

C seat of honor where Thou hast placed me; End let my 

j high-seat never pass into the power of other dynasties, 

7 but only to such as shall spring from me, the son in- 

1 heriting from the father in every caseDAnd grant, O 

Lord, I pray Thee, that no branches that have sprung 

from me shall wither or decay; and let them not follow 

after foolish men into error and neglect, but give them 

insight and wisdom to understand and to know Thy 

sacred law, and power and a good purpose to love Thee 

and Thy commands. For Thou only art the true God, 

Who liveth and reigneth forever, world without end. 

Amen." * 

Now this prayer that you have just heard is one which 
the king may offer up, if he wishes, with such other 
psalms and prayers as he knows. And though he may 
not always repeat this prayer, he should; nevertheless, 
pray according to the plan that is outlined in this prayer. 
And this I verily believe to be his duty every day, until 
he has heard the hours and the mass, if he means to 
observe what belongs to his dignity and to his official 

* This prayer is a translation of a Latin original which the author has incor- 
porated and given in full. Both the original and the author's translation are 
given in the manuscripts. 




Son. I believe you have now cleared up for me what 
you think ought to be a king's business, at night after 
the season for sleep is past while he is meditating upon 
the needs of his realm and subjects, and in the morning 
when he goes to church or to devotional services; and 
it seems to me that these occupations are both useful 
and important, so much so that they are indispensable. 
Now that you have shown me what he should be em- 
ployed with in the night and early in the morning, I 
wish to ask you to continue and to point out what he 
should be occupied with during the day: whether it is 
your opinion that he should ponder the needs of his 
kingdom while awake at night in order that he may be 
able to spend the day with greater freedom, after the 
custom which I hear that kings now follow in most 
places, either in riding out with hawks or in joining the 
chase with dogs, or in some other form of diversion, as 
I hear that kings are in the habit of doing in most coun- 
tries; or whether you think that he should be otherwise 
employed, if he does as he ought to do, and^that kings 
seek these diversions more for the sake of recreation 
than because their rank demand it. 

Father. I surely do believe, with respect to what you 
have just asked about, that kingship was established 
and appointed to look after the needs of the whole realm 
and people rather than for sport and vain amusements. 
Nevertheless, a king must be allowed to seek diversion 



now and then, either [with hawks, hounds, horses, or 
b weapons, so that his health and agility at arms or in any 
} form of warfare may be preserved.] His chief business, 
however, is to maintain an intelligent government and 
to seek good solutions for all the difficult problems and 
demands which come before him. And you shall know 
of a truth that it is just as much the king's duty to ob- 
serve daily the rules of the sacred law and to preserve 
justice in r *holy judgments" as it is the bishop's duty to 
preserve the order of the sacred mass and all the canon- 
ical hours. 

Son. I am inquiring so closely into these things for 
the reason that many believe the royal dignity to have 
been founded for such pleasure-giving splendor and un- 
restrained amusement as kings may desire. But now I 
see clearly from your remarks that a king ought con- 
stantly to labor in the yoke of God; wherefore it seems 
to me that he must have a great burden to support 
every day in the serious interest that he must show when 
the needs of his subjects are presented to him. Therefore 
I wish to ask you once more to show me clearly what 
should be a king's duty after the hours have been ob- 

/* ^ Father. It was the custom of old at the time when the 

fa j^ f^ : C royal office was established and (enjoyed its greatest 
/ u /<.^ ) splendor, that, when a king no longer stood in fear of 
-. / his enemies but sat in complete security among his 
henchmen,*1ie selected a splendid house where he could 
set up his high-seat, which was also to serve as his judg- 
ment seat; and this throne he adorned with every form 
of royal decoration. Then the king sat down upon it and 


observed in what glory and splendor he sat. Next he 
began to ponder in what way he must occupy this glori- 
ous high-seat, so as not to be driven from it with dis- 
honor in spite of his exalted position either because of 
injustice or malice, indiscretion or folly, inordinate am- 
bition, arrogance, or excessive timidity. Now it looks 
most reasonable to me that, whereas kingship was origi- 
nally established in this way as we have just pointed 
out, a king should continue to maintain the arrangement 
which was made in the beginning. And as soon as the 
king comes into this seat which we have just mentioned 
and has reflected upon all those things which we have 
just told about, it becomes his duty to pass judgment 
in the suits and on the needs of his people, if they are 
presented to him. But when there is no official business 
brought before him, he should meditate on the source 
of holy wisdom and study with attentive care all its 
ways and paths. 



Son. I beg you, sire, not to be displeased with me, 
though I ask thoughtless and stupid questions; but it 
looks to me like a difficult task to search out the v 
sources of wisdom and learn its ways and paths. And 
therefore I wish to ask you to tell me something about 
this form of study, so that I may, if possible, derive 
some insight from it. 

Father. It ought not to cause displeasure to have one 
inquire closely into subjects which one is not likely to 
understand without some direction. But God's mercy 


reveals and makes known many things to mankind 
which would be largely hidden from them, if He were 
unwilling to have them revealed. And many things 
which were formerly concealed in His own knowledge 
He has made known to us, because He wishes man to 
take a profitable interest in the wealth of knowledge 
which he draws from the divine treasures. But as a 
guide toward this interest which we have just mentioned 
one should take special note of the words that Wis- 
dom used concerning herself when she spoke in these 

" I am begotten of God's own heart; I have proceeded 
from the mouth of the Highest; and I have ordered all 
things.* The spirit of God moved over empty space, and 
we separated light from darkness; we appointed hours 
and times, days and nights, years and winters and ever- 
lasting summer. We built a star-lit throne for the King 

Ijl^ l~*' o f heaven; yea, God did nothing except in my far-seeing 
presence. Together we weighed the lightness of the air 

nJl*. >h<tf (^ n d the gravity of the earth; [we hung the ponderous 
i \ Sphere of earth in the thin air and strengthened the fir- 
(^mament of heaven with mighty forces./ We commanded 
the blazing sun to adorn the brow of day with shining 
beams; but the inconstant moon we bade illumine the 
darkness of night with its pale sheen. We created a 
comely man in our image. God also beautified the face 
of the earth with trees and herbs yielding manifold 
fruits; He called forth the beauties of the sky in the 
form of birds of many kinds; and he concealed multi- 

* Cf. Proverbs, viii, 22 ff.; see also, among the " Apochrypha," Ecdesiasticus 
(The Wisdom of Jesus the son of Sirach), xxiv, 5 ff. 


tudes of fishes of many sorts in the depths of the waters. 
He also commanded the four-footed beasts to multiply 
upon earth into many and divers species. He girded the 
entire circle of the earth with a roaring ocean and briny 
streams. He commanded fresh waters to flow forth in 
steep cascades over the face of the land, and built the 
foundations of the earth with numerous passages, that 
the flowing waters might always be able to fulfil the 
duties assigned them; and He commanded the light 
vapors to carry heavy waters through the heights of 
the air by means of enticing warmth. Further He 
bade the wind-swollen clouds pour forth cool showers 
over the face of the earth. And the Maker of all things 
bade me oversee the whole artifice of the divine handi- 
work. Then I moved briskly with treading foot over the 
mountain top; I fared lightly over smooth vales and 
level fields; I strode with toilsome and heavy step over 
the rough billows; and I measured the width of the level 
ocean with gentle tread. Pressing forward with stiffened 
knee, I walked upon the wings of the stormy winds. 
With gentle speech I taught the silent calm its pleasing 
manner. I traced my path through the heights of heaven 
and the expanse of the air; I scanned the curved circle 
of the restless ocean; and I paced and measured the en- 
tire globe of the sphere-shaped earth. I traveled over 
hills and mountains; I ran over fields and meadows and 
level valleys; and I gave honey-like dew to all the blos- 
soming herbs. I passed among thorns and bushes and 
through forests of every kind and gave sweet blossoms 
to the fruit-bearing trees. I pitched my tent in a shadow- 
less beam of light and went forth from this fair shelter 


arrayed like a bridegroom and glad like a mighty giant 
rejoicing in the race.* But mortal idols envied me, found 
me guilty, and condemned me to die. In wrath I de- 
scended to the lowest valleys and overturned the strong- 
holds of the mighty ones in mine anger. With violence 
I shattered the metal gates of the strong castles and 
broke the firm iron pillars and the thick bars of iron. 
J" [l took gold and gems and jewels, the plunder of warfare J 

and then journeyed gladly to the higher abodes with 
*^s priceless booty .[I traveled through farms and villages 
/**< and parishes offering the poor a share in my wealthjl 
offered the husbandman fruitful corn and partnership 
with me. I comfort the sorrowing; I give rest to the 
weary, drink to the thirsty, and food to the hungry. 
Happy is he who drinks from my cup, for my beverage 
has an unfailing sweetness. I journey through castles 
and cities and marts; I run over houses, markets, and 
streets; I call with a clear and friendly voice, offering 
food, entertainment, and harmless amusement. Happy 
is he who goes to my table, for my meat has a more 
pleasing savour than the sweetest perfume; my drink is 
sweeter than honey and clearer than any wine; tune- 
ful music is heard at my table in sweet and beautiful 
melody; there are songs and poems such as rarely are 
heard, merriment and gladness, and pure joy unmixed 
% with grief. Happy is he who shall live in my house, for 
in my house are seven great pillars which join together 
the entire vault under a good roof; they stand upon a 
floor placed on immovable foundations and they fortify 
all the walls with great strength. In each of these pillars 

* An echo of Psdms, xix, 5. 


may be found the seven liberal arts of study. Further- 
more, my house is strewn with fragrant grasses and 
lovely herbs; it is hung with beauty and elegance, and 
splendor in every form. Among the humble I am a 
pleasant companion, but toward the proud I am stern 
and haughty. In every school I am the principal teacher 
and I am the highest form of eloquence in every law 
court. I am the wisest among lawyers and the chief 
justice on every bench. Happy is he who is found to be 
a sincere companion of mine; for I am constantly with 
my companions guarding them from all perils. Happy 
is he who suffers no disgrace from me, for my wrath 
kindles a fire in its passion which burns even to the 
lowest depths; some day it will consume the founda- 
tions of the hills and swallow up the earth with its 
teeming life. Where can he hide who seeks to escape 
from me ? The spirit of God fills the entire home-circle 
and searches out the meaning and the interpretation of 
all knowledge." 

The speech that you have now heard is one which 
Wisdom has spoken about herself; there are others like 
it, but loftier, which are not repeated here. For King 
Solomon and Jesus the son of Sirach have written with 
much skill a great many sermons of the kind that Wis- 
dom has spoken about herself in divers ways. But if 
we were to mention all the speeches that can be found 
in their writings, our conversation would suffer a great 
delay; and it seems unnecessary at this time to bring 
into our talk any lengthy discussion of those things 
that Wisdom has said about herself. However, it is the 
duty of every king to know thoroughly all the accounts 


that Wisdom has given of herself or wise men like those 
just mentioned have written, and each day to ponder 
some part of those speeches, if the duties of his office 
leave him any time for that. 



Son. Since it clearly is the official duty of a king to be 
well informed in all science, it is quite evident that to 
acquire the knowledge which you have just now dis- 
cussed must be of the highest importance; for it seems 
likely that he will be able to gather much insight from 
it, whether he wishes to meditate on the greatness of 
divine power or on the needs of men. Now since you do 
not care to discuss these matters further, I will ask you 
to continue your remarks with a few words about what 
a king ought to consider before passing judgments, 
when he comes into the judgment seat to determine 
the causes of men. 

Father. It is indeed his duty, as you have remarked, to 
look carefully into all those speeches that we have now 
spoken and to study them thoroughly, for this reason, 
that if he unravels them with care in his thoughts, he 
will surely find in them, if he has understanding, nearly 
all those things which pertain to divine power and which 

show how God has distributed his gifts among men and 
other created beings. For every king and every other 
discreet man can learn in this way what he actually is, 
and what he ought to be, if he wishes to achieve what 
God has intended for him. You also ask how a king 


should weigh the judgments that he renders in the dis- 
putes of men; but I have given a brief reply to that 
question in an earlier talk, when I told how God passed 
judgment after His covenant with Adam was broken, 
and what judges He brought with Him to the judg- 
ment seat. I also gave many examples to show how 
God ordered His verdicts in certain cases of a later 
time, those of King Pharaoh and all the others who 
were named later in that conversation; and every king 
ought surely to weigh what is found in those examples. 
He must also consider with care whether a case calls 
for severity and punishment or whether the doom 
should be tempered; for the judgments ought not to be 
equally severe in all cases. And every sentence should 
be kept within the bounds of justice and fairness; and 
here I may cite another example, if you like. 

There is something told of a certain king, which I 
find most fitting to illustrate this point. This king was 
a man of fame and power, thoroughly learned in all 
knowledge and just in all his decisions. Every day there 
came before him a large number of men whose diffi- 
culties he had to settle; and every day he sat a long 
time on the judgment seat to determine the suits of 
his people, and with him sat the wise men, whom he 
had found to be the most discreet and best prepared 
for such duties. [But whenever the king sat in this 
assembly with the wise men whom he had summoned 
to serve with him, armed knights stood about the 
house to make sure that he could sit in perfect' security. J 
The king had many sons, one of whom, however, was 
the dearest of all; for this son loved especially to be 


near his father whenever possible, and he frequently 
sat on the judgment seat with him. It was in the king's 
nature to be slow in reaching decisions; and it was said 
among men of quick minds that he would surely be 
able to settle the law suits and speak his verdicts more 
promptly, if he were truly wise. This remark was ap- 
proved by the king's son and by many others among 
the wise men; and so often was the saying repeated 
that the king himself got news of it. Now it happened 
at one time that the king was indisposed after a bleed- 
ing; and just then a number of men came to bring their 
disputes before the king. He then sent for his son, the 
one who was in the habit of sitting in judgment with 
him, and said to him: "Summon the wise men who 
are accustomed to sit in judgment with me and go into 
my judgment hall and take my seat for to-day, and de- 
termine as many of the law suits as you possibly can 
get over." It was done as the king commanded. And 
when the cases were presented to those men, it looked 
to them as if they could decide the suits in a hurry. 
But when the king's son was ready to determine the 
disputes which had been brought before him, he thought 
he saw three young men coming forward, handsome 
yet terrible in appearance. Two of them sat down at 
his feet, one on either side. One was occupied with a set 
of writings in which were written out all the cases that 
were to be settled that day, one case in each document. 
The other was busy with balances; and these appeared 
so delicate that, if a little hair was laid upon them, they 
would be disturbed. The one who had the balances 
held them up, while the other, who had the documents, 


laid the writings which favored him who had brought 
the suit into one scale and the writing in his behalf 
who was to reply in the other; but it looked as if the 
scales would never balance. Then the king's son thought 
he saw that certain documents were brought out in 
which the decisions and formal verdicts were drawn 
up, just as he had intended to render judgment and 
all the wise men had advised. But even after these 
writings had been laid in the scales, they were as far 
from balancing as before. When the king's son saw 
these things, he looked to see what the third young 
man was doing, and saw that he stood near with a 
drawn sword as if ready to strike. The sword was keen- 
edged and terrible, and the edges looked to him as if 
they were both on fire. Then he saw clearly that, if he 
passed judgment before the scales balanced, the sword 
of the young man would immediately smite his neck. 
Just then he glanced down before his feet, and there 
he saw the earth open downwards; underneath he saw 
the gaping jaws of hell, as if waiting for him to come 
there. But when he saw these things, he ceased speak- 
ing and rendering judgments. When the wise men re- 
minded him that there were suits to be settled, he called 
them to him, and everyone who came saw all these 
things that we have now described. After that none 
dared to pronounce judgment, for the scales of the 
young man never balanced, and no suit was settled on 
that day ./But thereafter no man thought it strange if 
the king was slow in pronouncing his decisions. I 

Another and similar example is found in wEatl told 
you earlier in our conversation, when we spoke about 


a city in Ireland called Themar; * and I shall repeat 
that story in part, if you wish. This was the leading 
city in Ireland and the king had his chief residence 
there; and no one knew of a finer city on earth. Though 
the inhabitants were heathen at that time and did not 
know the true faith about God, they were firm in the 
belief that there could be no deviation from righteous- 
ness in judgment on the part of the king who dwelt in 
Themar; for no decision was pronounced in Ireland 
which they could consider just before the king at The- 
mar had passed upon it. Now at one time it came to 
pass that a case was brought before the king who sat 
in Themar in which his friends and kinsmen were in- 
terested on the one side, while men whom the king dis- 
liked had a part on the other side; and the king shaped 
the verdict more according to his own will than to 
justice. And this soon became evident, for three days 
later the royal hall and all the other houses that the 
king occupied were overturned, so that the foundations 
pointed upward, while the walls and the battlements 
pointed down into the earth; and the inhabitants im- 
mediately began to desert the city and it was never 
occupied after that. Now from these accounts you are 
to conclude that God permits such things to be re- 
^vealed to men, because He wishes them to understand 
\ that such an outcome is daily prepared in a spiritual 
* and invisible manner for men who refuse to render just 
and right judgments, if they are appointed to determine 
the suits of men. 





Son. These examples apply very well to such men as 
are avaricious or obstinate or both. 

Father. You shall know of a truth, that wherever jus- 
tice is sold for money or is stricken down by arrogance, 
divine revenge and punishment, physical or spiritual, 
will surely come; and an instance of this can be cited, 
if it is desired. There was a prominent citizen in Athens 
named Stephen; he was judge in all those cases that 
arose within the city; he was not known as an unjust 
man. Now it came to pass that Stephen departed this 
life, and two groups of angels came to meet him, the 
one wishing to support his cause, the other charging 
him with much and heavy guilt and wishing to lead 
him with them to death. But whereas a dispute arose 
between them and neither side would yield, one of the 
angels proposed that they should lead Stephen before 
the Judge and let the dispute be settled by His judg- 
ment. When they came into court, the accusing lawyers 
cried out saying that they had a grave charge against 
Stephen, namely, that he had taken a plot of ground 
from the church of Saint Lawrence by an unjust decree. 
But the judge said that the saint should decide that 
case, seeing that he was the one robbed. Now just as 
Saint Lawrence came up to hear how the suit was going 
forward, one of the angels said to Stephen: "Why do 
you not call the holy priest Justin, whom you honored 
so highly as to have a chapel built for him near your 
hall and whom you have served in many things? He 


surely will be able to assist you somewhat in these your 
troubles." * Justin came at the moment when the suit 
was being brought up before Saint Lawrence; and after 
the case had been stated, the saint asked why Stephen 
had plundered him and deprived his church of land. 
Stephen replied that he did not render that unjust de- 
cision purposely, but really thought it was a just de- 
cision. Then Saint Lawrence gripped Stephen in the 
side and pinched him very hard. But Justin interceded 
for him, begging the saint to show mercy in this cause, 
both because of his intercession and because Stephen 
did not know that he had given an unjust decision. 
While Saint Lawrence was pinching his side, Stephen 
had a feeling that even if he were to suffer torture for 
a similar space of time in hell, he would find it no more 
painful than the clutching of Saint Lawrence. But as 
soon as Justin interceded for Stephen, the saint released 
him and forgave the offence. f 

When the prosecutors heard that this indictment had 
failed, they shouted even more loudly, saying that they 
had still greater charges against Stephen. So they set 
forth that a Roman whose name was Tarquin had come 
to Athens, and since he was an alien and had no kindred 
there, he thought that he might need help from Stephen 
in his important affairs, seeing that Stephen was judge 
and ruler over the whole city; and he gave Stephen a 
fine horse on condition that he was to have justice and 
equity. Then the Judge decreed that, if Stephen had 

* According to the legend the priest Justin assisted at the funeral of St. Law- 
rence. Heilagra Manna Sbgur, I, 430. 

t A somewhat different version of this story is given in the Legenda Aurea of 
Jacques de Voragine, who quotes the " Miracles of the Virgin Mary." 


sold justice for money, he should follow that profit to 
destruction. But when Stephen was questioned whether 
this charge was true or not, he denied the accusation 
and declared that he could not remember ever having 
taken fee or gift for justice. Now since Stephen had 
denied the charge, it was ordered that Tarquin himself 
should be called to straighten the matter. When Tarquin 
came, he declared that this was not a true charge against 
Stephen; for he asserted that Stephen had never taken 
fees for justice so far as he knew. "But having come 
there a stranger," said Tarquin, " I thought that I 
might need the good will of such a man and gave him 
the horse on my own volition and not at his request." 
When the accusers heard that they would surely fail 
in this indictment too, they cried even more loudly, 
saying that they had a new charge against Stephen, 
much greater than either of the others. They asserted 
that he had arbitrarily and illegally saved three men 
from the death penalty, whom both law and equity and 
a just sentence would have condemned. When Stephen 
was asked whether he was guilty of this charge, he ad- 
mitted that he had saved the men from death, but de- 
clared that he had always regretted having saved them 
by arbitrary and illegal means. Then the Judge decreed 
that, if he had rescued men from death by violence 
whom justice had condemned to die, he must suffer 
death for it, unless he would do penance where the 
offence was committed. Then the priest Justin asked 
Saint Lawrence to help in Stephen's defense, seeing 
that he had forgiven him the matter that he had against 
him and no indictment had been found true except the 


one that was now being considered. So Lawrence and 
Justin went in haste to the queen and, falling at her 
feet, begged her to request this favor, that the verdict 
be modified so that Stephen might be allowed to do 
penance in the place where he had offended. When the 
queen interceded for Stephen, her request was granted. 
Thereupon he was brought back to Athens, and he arose 
at the moment when his body was to be carried to the 
grave. He lived three winters after that and did penance 
for his guilt according to the instruction of the bishop 
who was in charge of that city. 

There are many such examples that could be brought up 
in this talk, if it were thought necessary; and you should 
now conclude from what I set forth in my last speech 
that the judgments passed here must be carefully scru- 
tinized, and that it is very important for those who are 
appointed to be judges to make sure whether the de- 
cisions are properly stated and the findings correct. For 
you heard how precisely the decrees were weighed be- 
fore the king's son, when the scales were held up before 
him but would never balance; and how he was threat- 
ened with death, if he should pronounce a different 
judgment from the one that would balance the scales. 
You also heard how God punished the king and the 
city of Themar, because the king had distorted a just 
decision. Though the people did not hold the true faith 
about God, He punished the deed nevertheless, because 
they believed that a wrong decision could never come 
from Themar. And in the last example you heard how 
Stephen was held to account for all the dooms that he 
had pronounced, and suffered a reprimand for having 


taken a gift from a friend; and he was condemned to 
die for having saved men from death, though many 
would regard that as a good rather than an evil deed. 



Son. The more examples of this sort I hear, the more 
difficult seems the position of those who are appointed 
to judge. I will ask you, therefore, to indicate some test 
by which I can know when the judgments ought to be 
severe and when they should be more lenient. 

Father. It is difficult to state that in definite terms: 
still, all causes that are brought before the men who have 
authority to judge will be decided in some way. But I 
believe that a purpose to judge as they think is right 
will do the most to keep them from falling into guilt 
before God. For Stephen was acquitted of the charge 
that he had caused the church of Saint Lawrence to 
forfeit land by the fact that he did not know that his 
decision was wrong; and yet he did not wholly escape 
punishment, though in some respects he was punished 
less than he would have been, if he had known that his 
verdict was wrong. Now there are four things which he 
who goes into the judgment hall must leave outside 
and never allow to come into the judgment seat with 
him or even inside the door. The first is avarice-: the 
second ,.nmity; the third obsjinacy; the fourth, friend- 
_ship. For you heard that Stephen was ordered to dis- 
close whether he had accepted a gift from Tarquin and 


had promised to secure justice for him in return for the 
fee. And the judgment was, that if he had sold justice 
for money, he should follow the fee to destruction. You 
heard this, too, that he was condemned to die for hav- 
ing saved men from death by force and in defiance of 
law. You also heard in the earlier account how the king 
and the city of Themar perished because the king, being 
friendly to one side and very hostile to the other, had 
distorted a just decision. Now for such reasons those 
four things must be excluded, lest any one of them 
should cause a righteous doom to be distorted. 

You have also asked when the sentence should be 
lenient and when severe, and that question can now 
be answered in a few words. Careful account should 
be taken of the circumstances of the man's case who 
is accused. If a charge is brought against one who is 
anxious to keep the peace but is driven to violence by 
the selfishness and arrogance of another, and, regretting 
his guilt, is anxious to atone for it, if such are the 
circumstances, there should be lenient judgment in his 
case. Likewise, if a man breaks the law who is ignorant 
and does not know that he is transgressing, and would 
not have done the deed had he known it to be contrary 
to law, his case, too, calls for a lenient sentence. Even 
when the ugliest cases that are known among men, such 
as theft and robbery, come up, one should investigate 
how the crime came about. If a man is so hard bestead 
that he can get no food either by begging or buying 
and cannot get work, while hunger and his physical 
nature drive him beyond endurance, the judge should 
be lenient with him, even though he be taken in guilt; 


and whenever necessity drives a man into crime and 
law-breaking, the judgment should be tempered. 

However, if the accused are men who have been led 
into crime by insolence, ambition, avarice, or selfishness, 
the dooms ought to be severe, though justice and the 
law of the land must be observed in every instance. And 
in cases like those to which we have just referred the 
sentence should be as severe as the law permits; while 
in the cases mentioned earlier the law should be applied 
with due allowance for the difficulties that were at hand. 
If the distress that led to the trouble is considered great, 
the judgment should be tempered accordingly. But if a 
jcing or any ruler who is a judge and has power to pun-^ 
ish, takes life as a punishment, he should always do it -T ' 
with great reluctance, in bis heart lamenting the jeath^ 
and ill-fortune of the offender. He must take heed, how- 
ever, lest he slay out of his own cruelty or in anger and 
hatred for the one who is to die. Let him slay him in 
just punishment and out of love for those who live 
after; because he believes that they will live in greater 
security and lead better lives after having seen the 
death and troubles of such a one; and because he in- 
tends that the fear and terror which the misfortunes of 
another have brought upon him shall guide those to 
rectitude and good morals, whom nature is unable to 
guide because of their excessive ambition or stupidity. 
A famous man, an upright and excellent emperor, once 
ordained respecting the decrees of kings, that if a king 
should become so angry with any one that he planned 
his death, and if his guilt were not so evident that he 
could with justice be condemned at once to an imme- 


diate death, that man should be kept in the king's garth 
or in custody forty days before his case should be finally 
determined.* And it would be well if every king would 
observe this enactment, in order that he might frame 
his decisions with regard for reason and justice and not 
in sudden anger. JLf a man is convicted of an offence 
for which law and justice impose a fine but not death, 
the king, or the lord who governs the land, shalLseize 
his wealth, not because he loves and covets the money, 
but because a just penalty and the laws of the land de- 

. - |MBB i 1M rr ^^^"^^i 

mand it. If all these things which we have now set forth 
are carefully observed, I believe that those who are 
appointed to be judges will suffer no great reproaches 
from God. 



Son. It seems reasonable that a land, which is placed 
in charge of a ruler who attends carefully to these things, 
will be well governed; and the people ought to show 
proper appreciation of his government. Still with your 
permission I shall now ask about certain matters that 
interest me concerning rightful verdicts. You referred 
to an order given by an emperor as to punishments de- 
creed by a king (which looks to me like good law), that 

* This is probably an allusion to the edict of Theodosius II " which interposes 
a salutary interval of thirty days between the sentence and the execution." 
Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, III, 176; Mommsen and 
Meyer (editors), Theodosiani Libri XVI, I, part 2, 503 (viii, 40: 13). The edict 
was probably a part of the penance exacted from the Emperor after his 
massacre of the Thessalonians. See Ambrosius Saga in Heilagra Manna Sogur, 


a man who had incurred the king's wrath should be 
given a reprieve of forty days in the king's custody, lest 
a verdict be rendered too quickly in his case and in 
violent anger; and it seems to me that a king will need 
to possess much good nature, if he is to spare a man in 
his anger. But even so righteous and holy a man as 
Moses was could not control his wrath on that day, 
when he came in anger to the people of Israel; for I am 
told that his wrath rose to such violence that he dashed 
the two tables of stone, which he bore in his arms and 
upon which God Himself had written the ten command- 
ments of His law with His own fingers, against a rock 
and broke them into fragments in his fury; and rushing 
at once to arms, he and the men who were with him 
slew many hundred persons that day.* I have also heard 
that David in sudden wrath ordered the man, who came 
from the battle in which Saul fell, bringing the tidings 
that Saul was dead, to be slain immediately; f and he 
did not order him to be kept for further inquiry. 

Father. Remember what I called to your attention 
in an earlier remark, namely, that these laws are in- 
tended for men who do not fall into such evident trans- 
gressions that a rightful verdict can condemn them to 
immediate death. But when Moses came away from 
God, he knew God's wrath toward all the people of 
Israel, and consequently did a deed of kindness and not 
of hatred when by this chastisement he turned them 
from error and evil ways; just as I have told you that 
[a king in punishing should be moved by kindness and 
not by hatredAFor all penRltlVs thnt nrp inflirtrH br 

* Exodus, xxxii. f H Samuel, i. 


cause jai. -hatred are murder; wHle^jgunishment inflicted 
for the sake of love and justice is a holy deed and^ot 



Son. Now, if you permit, I wish to ask more fully 
about penalties; for few men, indeed, are able to com- 
prehend how it can be a good, holy, and loving deed to 
take a man's life; wherefore I with many others on the 
outside should like to have you explain briefly how it 
can be a good and proper deed to slay men in righteous 
punishment; inasmuch as all gentle and peaceful per- 
sons have a great aversion to manslaughter, regarding 
it as evil and sinful. 

Father. The subjects that we are now discussing are 
clearly illustrated in the case of Moses. Holy man as 
he was and meek and right-minded in every way, had 
he known that his act of punishment was sinful like any 
other slaughter, he would not have ordered it. But if 
he had been so zealous in his obstinate wrath that he 
had done this deed in anger rather than for the sake of 
justice, God's righteousness would surely have punished 
him with a severe chastisement and stern revenge for 
the great slaughter that he committed. For Moses com- 
manded every man who took up arms with him to spare 
none, neither father nor brother nor other kinsmen, if 
they had been guilty of the deed that had called God's 
anger down upon them .[Moses showed a threefold right- 
eousness in this chastisement: for those who were with 
him in the slaughter sanctified their hands in the blood 
of those whom they slew, since in their deed they ren- 



dered obedience to their leader and fulfilled the sacred 
laws. Those who survived regretted their sins and turned 
their hearts to penitence for having broken the law, 
while those who were slain were cleansed in their 
penance and in the pangs which they suffered when they 
died. And it was much better for them to suffer a brief 
pain in death than a long torture in hell. Of the same 
character are the penalties that kings impose; for a 
king cleanses himself in the blood of the unjust, if he 
slays them as a rightful punishment to fulfil the sacred 
laws. (Moreover, there are many capable men who fear ^ 
punishment alone, and would commit crimes if they S* J 

were not in terror of the king's revenge.jBut one who is - !^' 
to suffer punishment will confess his sins and repent of 
his misdeeds; though if he did not see a sudden death 
prepared for him, he would show no repentance. He is, 
therefore, saved by his repentance and the pangs which 
he suffers in his death. And it is better for him to suffer 
a brief punishment here than endless agony and tor- 
ture; for God never punishes the same sin twice. Con- 
sequently the king's punishment becomes a good and 
kind deed toward all those who are subject to him, for 
he would rather have the one who is to be punished 
suffer a brief pain here for his wickedness than to be 
lost forever, in the world to come. Through this kind- 
ness he also saves the righteous and peaceable from the 
avarice and the wickedness of the violent. We may, 
therefore, conclude that .punishment is a good deed, if 
it is exacted according to a righteous verdict; for King 
Saul was deposed from^ his kingship because he failed 
to punish according to God's orders at the time when 
he invaded the kingdoms of Amalek and the Amorites. 




Son. Now I wish to ask you why David slew the 
man of whom we spoke earlier, him who brought the 
tidings that Saul had fallen, and whether he slew him 
justly or did it from sudden anger. 

Father. When the man had told these tidings, David 
asked how he knew them. And he said that he had lifted 
up weapons against Saul at the king's own request. 
^'V'When David heard this, he spoke thus :(*' A wretched 
j j creature you are, who dared to lay hands on the Lord's 
\ anointed; and it is better for you to suffer a swift pun- 
/ ishment here than to have this crime pursue you into 
everlasting hell. '3 Thereupon David ordered him to be 
slain. But when he who had hoped to receive a joyous 
welcome and good gifts for his tidings, saw that death 
was to be his reward, he repented that he had falsely 
imputed this crime to himself and would gladly have 
withdrawn his words, if he had been permitted to do 
so. But David spoke thus: " Your own testimony con- 
demns you and not I; for you have charged yourself 
with this murder of the Lord's anointed." We have 
other and similar instances in the case of the men who 
slew Ishbosheth, the son of Saul, hoping thereby to win 
David's friendship; and they fared to David with the 
news that they had slain his enemy who had planned 
to rise up against him and his kingship. But when David 
heard these tidings he answered in this wise;' Wretches 
you are for this deed, having slain your lord, though you 


were Ishbosheth's own men; you have committed a vile 
and treacherous crime in laying hands upon your lord, 
and you have not acted as if you were my men and did 
this out of loyalty to me. Now it will be necessary for 
you to suffer a swift revenge and a prompt punishment, 
lest this deed draw you into everlasting torment. "/Then 
David ordered his men to cut off their hands and feet 
and afterwards to hang them beside a pool in a city 
called Hebron.* 



Son. I will venture to ask one more question about 
those cases in which it seems to me that God has passed 
rather strange sentences. I am asking chiefly because I 
find it hard to understand what reason or circumstance 
can have caused the difference in these decrees which 
I now intend to bring up. You stated earlier in your 
speech tha^God deprived Saul of his kingdom because 
he was too lenient in cases of homicideTlthough a man 
will think that this was no great offence, as it is easy 
enough to slay multitudes if that be regarded a better 
deed than to let them live. Still, this leniency proved 
such a grievous fault that God said He regretted having 
chosen Saul king over his people, and immediately 
threatened what He later carried out that the 
kingship should never be transmitted to his descend- 
ants; and immediately, though Saul was still living, He 

* II Samuel, iv. 


appointed another to be king after his days. But after 
David had become king, he committed a crime which 
will scarcely seem less when reflected upon; for he com- 
mitted adultery with the wife of Uriah his knight, a 
good and faithful man, and afterwards contrived his 
death, not as a just penalty but because he wanted his 
wife. But later, when Nathan the prophet pointed out 
the sin to David and he confessed, he was forgiven at 
once; indeed, it seemed as if his kingship was more 
stable after that time than before. Now I do not know 
which is the worse crime, to kill an innocent man and 
violate his wife, or to let the guilty have their lives. 
Many a man, who is ignorant as to the reason why, 
may indeed imagine that God loved David more than 
Saul, and that David's crime was counted less for that 
reason. But inasmuch as God always judges according 
to justice and without regard to persons, it would be 
sinful to hold wrong ideas about this; and it would be 
well if you could add a few words in explanation, unless 
you think that my questions are stupid. It may also be 
that great lords who are chosen to be judges will get a 
better insight into these things, if they are clearly ex- 

Father. This question is, of such a character that it 
will demand an extended answer, if it is to be fully un- 
derstood. But since it has been brought up, I shall be 
glad to answer it as far as I can and as briefly as I can. 
First it is necessary to recall what I said in an earlier 
speech when we talked about dooms, when they 
should be severe and when lenient: I then brought out 
the fact that if a good and peace-loving man should 


fall into sin and his deed should seem evil to him and 
he were anxious to do penance, then the judgment ought, 
to be merciful in his case on account of hum an nature; 
for human nature is so frail that no one can be so care- 
ful as never to fall intc^sin. But some add to their offence 
by taking pride in it, and they are not careful to avoid 
falling into another sin. Now David was of all men the 
most adroit in the use of weapons in warfare and he 
was by nature quite severe in righteous chastisement; 
but he was a kind-hearted man, friendly toward every- 
one, and sympathetic toward all who suffered misfor- 
tunes. He was also trustworthy in every respect, honest 
and faithful in friendship and in all his promises, and 
so virtuous that he would allow nothing vicious about 
his person, indeed his like was not found among all 
the people of Israel; for when God chose David to be 
king, He testified in these words, saying that He had 
found a man after His own heart. But human frailty 
caused him to fall in the matter that we mentioned 
earlier: he violated Uriah's wife. But after he had fallen 
into this transgression and when he was once more 
alone, he repented deeply, sighing and weeping. Inas- 
much as the rules of the law would condemn this crime 
as a shameful reproach, if it were rumored among the 
people, David planned to keep the matter quiet, letting \ 
God see his repentance but keeping the people in ig- A 
norance of his offence, lest they should take his misdeed 
as an example and regard it as less serious to fall into 
sin and transgression if they knew of his guilt. So David I 
sought to hide his guilt by a crafty design: for as soon 
as he learned that Bathsheba, Uriah's wife, was preg- 


nant, he sent for Uriah, and hoping to avoid taking his 
life, he ordered him to lie with his wife so that the off- 
spring might be known as his, while David would atone 
in secret for the sin of his whoredom and never after- 
ward come near Uriah's wife. But when he found that 
Uriah happened to be unwilling to lie with his wife, he 
contrived to conceal his sin from men, though he in- 
creased it in the sight of God. Later, when Nathan the 
prophet charged David with all this guilt, he answered 
as if condemning himself, speaking these words: "So 
^heavy and evil is my transgression that I am worthy 
of death because of this thing; a wretch am I to have 
set such an example before God's people, over whom He 
has appointed me ruler and judge; rather would I now 
suffer a speedy death than have this misdeed pursue me 
tojiell. Now since I have set an evil example before the 
people of God by my sin, I am ready to suffer punish- 
ment according to the Lord's will as a warning to the 
people not to fall into such transgression." But when 
Truth and Justice saw David's penitence, they per- 
mitted Mercy to pass the judgment; for the prophet 
Nathan replied in this wise: " God sees your repentance, 
and He does not desire you to suffer death for your sin, 
but He will punish you with an endurable chastisement 
for this deed before you die." Now you must know that 
God did not forgive David's crime so completely as to 
excuse him from just punishment; for this was the first 
penalty that the king suffered from God: the child which 
he had begotten with Bathsheba was a man child and 
very lovely, wherefore David much desired that it might 
live; but it did not please God to let him enjoy the child 




which he had begotten in such a sinful way. Neverthe- 
less, David lay seven days upon the earth in the raiment 
of mourning, fasting and imploring God to let the child 
live. But God would not hear his prayer, and the child 
expired on the seventh day.* And this was the second 
punishment, that God refused to let David build him 
a temple; f God even called him a murderer, because 
he had deprived Uriah of life^But for the adultery which 
he had committed with Uriah's wife, he had to suffer / 
this disgrace, that his son Absalom, in the sight of all ^> J^v 
the people, went in unto David's concubines and thus \ 
dishonored his father before all the people. t j 

You have also asked which crime was the worse, 
that David caused Uriah to be slain without guilt and 
seduced his wife, or that Saul refused to kill so many 
people of Amalek; and you shall know of a truth that 
Saul's crime was the greater; for no offence is graver 
than to be disobedient toward one's superiors, as Saul u/ 
was. And you may observe even at this day among 
cloister folk, that if a monk is disobedient toward his 
abbot, where an abbot rules the cloister, or toward the 
prior, where such a one controls, he is forthwith ex- >- 
pelled from the holy order and from the monastery and 
is thenceforth regarded as a layman. Likewise, if a 
priest refuses to obey his superior the bishop, he is at 
once deprived of clerical honors, and the right to say 
mass is taken from him as well as all other official duties. 
In the same way, if a bishop, be he humble or powerful, 

* The story of David's great sin concerning Bathsheba and Uriah and its 
consequences is told in II Samuel, xi-xii, but it is probable that the author's 
source is some Biblical paraphrase rather than the Vulgate itself, 
f / Chronicles, xxii, 8. J 11 Samuel, xvi, 21-22. 


refuses to obey his superior^e js _immediatejy^horn of 
his dignity and all his office; and after that he is re- 
garded among learned men as any other layman un- 
worthy of any distinction. And it ought to be even more 
evident that it could not prosper Saul to be disobedient 
to such a lord as God Himself, when he was ordered to 
invade Amalek and the land of the Amorites and to slay 
all that was living. God took His rod of punishment 
and placed it in Saul's hands, bidding him execute His 
wrath and spare nothing that was living; to burn forti- 
fied cities, farmsteads, clothing, and whatever else there 
was; to lay the entire land in ruins and thus cleanse it 
with sword and ax and fire. Saul, however, carried out 
the vengeance that he was charged with in another way, 
by destroying everything that was lacking in beauty or 
value; but whatever seemed to him to be beautiful, 
valuable, and worth possessing he spared, brought 
home to his country, and distributed among his men. 
But when Samuel came to Saul and showed him the 
wrath of God, Saul spoke as if excusing himself: " Praise 
be to God, for I have fulfilled His command: I invaded 
Amalek and visited the entire kingdom with fire and 
sword; but King Agag I have brought with me, wishing 
to honor God's command by slaying him here, if He 
wills that he die. Fat oxen and fine sheep I have brought 
hither to sacrifice such to God as are acceptable to Him; 
and the children of the chief men I have brought hither 
to be kept in bondage and distress, doing fitting service 
for ourselves." 

Then Samuel replied: "How can God now accept 
that as a. sacrifice which He has Himself cursed in His 


anger ? For God demands a blessed and not an accursed 
sacrifice; and you shall know of a surety that obedience 
is more pleasing to God than any sacrifice." Truth 
stood by and said: " What need is there to conceal the 
motive that induced Saul to neglect doing as God com- 
manded him ? Saul imagined himself so firmly estab- 
lished in his kingship that he could order these things 
more according to his own liking than to God's com- / \ 
mand; he showed excessive pride in Jailing to remember 
who had given him the power. ^.nd this is the reason "^ r 
why he took good horses, oxen, sheep, and much else of f 
value, that he might satisfy the greed of his knights and ^ 
the rapacity of his other warriors rather than carry out C 
the commands of GodJAnd he spoke falsely when he_y 
said that he had brought horses and sheep and other 
things of value into his kingdom to sacrifice them to 
God ; for he knew that a cursed sacrifice was not accept- 
able to God." Then the decision was left to Justice and 
she decreed in this wise: "Whereas God took His rod 
of punishment, and placing it in Saul's hands bade him 
execute the divine wrath upon a cursed people, let that 
punishment now come upon Saul^tCn^his family which 
he failed to visit upon those whom God had com- 
manded him to carry it out upon. But the same rod of 
punishment that was given to Saul to shake over others, 
another shall now hold and shake over Saul and all his 
kin. And because he wished in his avarice to possess 
the riches that were forbidden him, let him now forfeit 
those riches that were given to him before." * But the 
reason why Justice passed such a severe judgment upon 

* On this episode see / Samuel, xv. 


Saul was that God knew his disposition thoroughly. 
For it was in Saul's nature to be proud and stubborn 
in the face of God; and as soon as he thought himself 
firmly established in his kingdom, he became greedy 
and avaricious, as is evident from this account. 

Now there was this difference between the tempers 
of David and Saul: when Nathan the prophet charged 
David with sin, he spoke reproachfully of his fault, al- 
most as if condemning himself, and implored mercy, 
though willing to suffer punishment, as if prepared to 
accept with gratitude any terms which God might im- 
pose for his misdeed; therefore he won favor through 
the lenient judgment of Mercy. (Yet, his son died be- 
cause of Uriah's death, though David himself did not 
die; and for violating Uriah's wife he suffered a great 
disgrace in that his son dishonored him in the sight of 
all the people J 

But when Samuel accused Saul of his crime, he re- 
plied as if defending his cause and praised himself for 
having done so well and spoke in this wise: " Praise be 
to God, for I have done what He commanded; " though 
he knew in his own mind that anything else was nearer 
the truth. Therefore he was stricken by the sentence of 
Justice, God seeing his arrogant boasting and lying ex- 
cuses. But his arrogance and envy became even more 
evident after he discovered that God was angry with 
him; for Saul fell ill; and now and then madness came 
upon him, so that he had to be watched when the 
malady troubled him. Then it was learned that if a 
man could be found who could play the harp well be- 
fore him, he would find relief and the illness would 


afflict him less. So they found a lovely youth whose 
name was David, the son of Jesse in Bethlehem, who 
knew how to strike the harp skilfully; he came to the 
king, and whenever the malady came upon Saul, David, 
standing before him, struck the harp and the illness 
departed immediately. (But when Saul discovered that 
the malady was less severe, he loved David highly and 
made him his shield bearer.^Samuel, however, had al- 
ready anointed him king in secret, no one knowing it 
but his father and his brothers. David remained with 
Saul many days and served him faithfully; and all men 
perceived that God was with him in all his doings. Saul, /> / 

too, was well disposed toward him at first {he gave him ^ 

his daughter and assigned him a troop to command.! J 
But after Saul had won his great victory over the Philis- 
tines and David had slain the giant Goliath and they 
were returning from the warfare, women came forth 
from cities and fortresses, dancing toward them and 
singing praises to them for their victory. And the bur- 
den of their song was this, that Saul had conquered a 
thousand but David ten thousand.! When Saul heard 
this he was seized with wrath and envy toward David 
and said in his own thoughts : "Now I perceive that God 
has chosen this man to take the kingdom after me instead 
of my sons; but I shall try to upset this plan if I can, 
though so cleverly that no one shall perceive that I 
kill him intentionally." A few days later Saul's habitual 
illness came upon him; but David took his harp and, 
standing before him, played as was his wont to relieve 
the king's illness. Saul had a javelin in his hand which 

* I Samuel, xvi, 14-23. t IbM-> xviii, 12-21. J Ibid., xviii, 6-9. 


he threw at David, aiming to drive it through him and 

pin him to the wall of the room. Thus he had planned 

to avoid responsibility for the murder by leading the 

people to think he had done it in frenzy and not with 

evil intent. David escaped and found security from 

t> . /that peril.fBut when Saul saw that David had escaped 

land he had not caught him, he sent him on frequent 

J forays among heathen people in the hope that he would 

) be slain in warfare. But the more frequently David 

/ went out into battle, the more frequent victories and 

y the greater honors did he win;jand God magnified him 

before the eyes of all the people. And the more Saul saw 

him prosper, the more he envied him.* 

Now you can imagine the state of King Saul's mind: 
he could say nothing against David, only what was 
good. But since he perceived that God loved David 
much because of his humility and loyalty, he envied 
him as Cain envied his brother Abel because God loved 
him. Indeed, Saul's enmity toward David became so 
evident that he could not conceal his intentions to kill 
him. Then Jonathan, Saul's son, reminded the king 
that it would be a sin to slay an innocent man, speaking 
in this wise: " My lord, why are you angry with your 
servant David ? If there is any guilt on his part that 
may be injurious to your kingdom or dignity, every 
man who is with you here will seek his life; and we can 
seize him whenever we like, for he is not on his guard 
against us, knowing himself to be guiltless. He has 
served you long and has been faithful in all things; he 
fought against great odds when he slew Goliath, and 

* Cf. / Samuel, xix, 8-11. 


God rescued your entire kingdom through David's won- 
derful victory, which he won fighting unarmed against 
a giant. He has waited upon you in your distressing ill- 
ness; and wherever you have placed him at the head of 
the host, he has brought a vigorous defense to your 
kingdom, and no one knows that he has been anything 
but loyal. Therefore conquer your wrath, sire, and do 
not fall into such an evident sin of murder before God 
as to slay an innocent man." * Saul, however, became 
only the more wrathful and charged with treason his 
son and everyone else who spoke a good word for 

David fled from King Saul's wrath with a few men, 
but provided with neither clothes nor weapons. He 
came to the city called Nob, the bishop of which was 
Ahimelech, a son of Ahitub the bishop; but Ahitub was 
the son of Ichabod, the son of Phineas, the son of Eli 
the bishop(When David came to the bishop Ahimelech, ~> 
he pretended to be traveling on an important mission 
for King Saul, and asked him to give him and his men 
something to eat and to furnish him with weapons. The 
bishop Ahimelech gave him such victuals as he had, but 
weapons he had none to give him except the sword that 
had belonged to Goliath; and this he gave him, for he 
did not know that he was a fugitive, but believed he 
was traveling on the king's errand, as he had saidjBut 
so fierce was Saul's hatred toward David, that as soon 
as he learned that the bishop Ahimelech had given him 
food, he seized the bishop and all his kinsmen and 
charged them with treason. The bishop replied to the 

* Cf. / Samuel, xix, 4-7. 


charge in this wise: " My lord, I confess that I gave 
David what food I had and the weapon that I had, for 
he said he was traveling on an important errand on 
your behalf. Why should I not give hospitality to a 
man like David, who is the best and the most highly 
esteemed of all the men that you have about you ex- 
cept your sons, and who is furthermore your own son- 
in-law and has been faithful to you in all things ? Never 
have I had any design against you or your honor. Do 
not think, my lord, that I, your servant, have plotted 
with David against your will; I could not know why 
David traveled in such distress, for he told me that 
you had sent him with important errands; nor did I 
know that he had fallen into any guilt against you." 
Then Saul replied in fierce anger: " This I swear that 
you shall perish to-day, you and all your kin." There- 
upon he caused the bishop to be slain along with eighty- 
five other men, all of whom were robed in the priestly 
dignity. After that he ordered all who dwelt in the city 
of Nob to be slain, even women and children, and had 
the city burned.* 

Now I have revealed to you the ferocity which God 
found in Saul's heart when he removed him from the 
kingship, and which later became evident in what you 
have now heard and in much else of like import, though 
I have told this only. The displeasure which the king 
incurred from God fell so heavily upon him, for the 
reason that God saw in his heart the fierce avarice which 
later began to appear. Now he wanted to kill David, 

* On the fate of Ahimelech and the inhabitants of Nob, cf . / Samuel, xxi, 1-9 ; 
xxii, 9-19. 


though innocent, because he found that God loved him; 
and he slew the bishop, though guiltless, and so fierce 
was he that he slew everything in the city that had life 
and afterward burned the city. But where God had 
commanded him to use severity of this sort, there he 
had spared; here, however, he slew God's servants in 
defiance of God's command. But in David's case God 
passed a more lenient judgment for the reason that, 
just as he perceived the ferocity in Saul's heart, he 
found true repentance and clemency in David's heart, 
as I shall now show you. 

There was a son of the bishop Ahimelech, Abiathar 
by name, who was hid in a cave when all those were 
slain of whom I have just spoken. Abiathar fled to 
David and told him all these happenings. But when 
David heard these tidings, he sighed and spoke thus 
in deep sorrow: "May God in His mercy forgive me 
for this slaughter, for I have too great a share in it, 
having eaten your father's bread. And' now since you 
have come hither, abide with me; and if God permits 
me to live, He will also protect you with me, and let 
whatever God wishes happen to us both." Thereupon 
David elevated him to the bishop's office which his 
father had held. But when David's kinsmen learned 
that he was abiding in the forest, they joined him with 
a large force counting not fewer than four hundred men; 
and from that time on David grew in strength as God 
willed.* He camped among the hills with this force and 
made repeated attacks on Saul's enemies, but never on 
the king himself or his men. But whenever Saul learned 

* / Samuel, xxii, 1-2, 20-23. 


where David lay concealed, he marched out to seek him, 
intending to slay him. 

Then it happened once, when David and his men 
were hiding in a large cave, that Saul entered this alone 
on a necessary errand. Then said David's companions: 
" Now God has fulfilled what He has promised you and 
has delivered your enemy into your hands; be sure to 
secure this quarry." David stole up and cut a piece off 
Saul's mantle, though the king was not aware of it, and 
returned to his comrades. Then David's companions 
said to him : " If you are unwilling to lay your own hand 
upon him, let us kill him." David replied: " My crime 
would be as great before God, whether I do it myself 
or bid others do itf God keep me and all our compan- 
ions from such a sin as to lay hands upon the Lord's. 
anointed. He is my master and I served him long; he 
is also the Lord's anointed and it would be a great 
crime, if I were to lay hands upon him, for I have no 
revenge to take either for father or brother or any other 
kinsman ; nor is jtjas if he had taken the throne which 
he^sits upon from my kinsmen with violence OT deceit; 
but God chose him to it and sanctified him to His serv- 

ice, honoring Jiin^J^hJS^oj^jg^me. Wherefore it is 
right that[_He Who appointed him to thejdngship 
should deprive him of it according to His willjbut not 
I in vengeful audacity. And I swear this day that God 
alone shall call him, whether by demanding his soul or 
by causing him to fall in battle before his enemies; but 
as for my hands, they shall let him live many days. But 
I regret deeply that I injured his garment if he shall 
feel hurt or dishonored because of it." 


,When Saul had departed and returned to his host, 
David ran up on a hill and cried: "My lord, King Saul! 
can you hear ?" But when Saul turned to hear what this 
man said, David bent both knees to the earth and bow- 
ing before the king said to him: " Those men do ill who 
tell you, my lord, that I mean to be your enemy; for 
now I have evidence here in my hand that your life was 
in my power to-day, when you left all your host and en- 
tered the cave alone; and it was no less in my power to 
injure your life than your clothes, for here I have in my 
hand a large piece of the skirt of your mantle. Now let 
God judge between us. You see how they have told 
lying tales, who say that I have striven after your life." 
Saul appreciated these facts fully, for David spoke the 
truth; and he promised that he would nevermore hate 
David.* But not many days passed before Saul went 
out again to seek David, as he did constantly after that. 
Now it came to pass another time, when Saul had made 
a wearisome journey in search of David, that sleep came 
upon the king and all his host. And David went into 
the camp where Saul lay, but none was aware of it. 
The man who accompanied him was named Abishai 
and he said to David: "Now you can see that God 
surely intends to deliver your enemy into your hands, 
and it is not advisable to refuse what God Himself offers 
you. I will thrust my spear through him, if you will 
permit me, and then we shall return to our men." David 
answered: " God has done this to tempt me and to see 
whether I would lay my hands on His anointed. Now I 
must answer as before, that God shall tear the kingship 

* The atory of David and Saul at En-gedi is told in I Samuel, xxiv. 


from him, either by_jje^andmg. Jiia^a 

as ^ or 

shall let him live many days; for I have no revenge to 
cherish against him, either for plunder or for the loss of 
kinsmen, except such as was incurred while he was 
cleansing the land with righteous punishment; and it 
is neither my proper business nor that of anyone else 
to take revenge for such; for it is a more serious matter' 
than even a wise man can conceive to lay hands on the 
Lord's anointed, who is dedicated and hallowed to God. 
Let us take his saddle-cup and his spear for a proof, and 
then let us return to our forces." * 

Now you will understand the character of both King 
Saul and David from what I have just told you. David 
knew that he was chosen of God to govern, that he was 
the Lord's anointed, consecrated and hallowed to God 
no less than Saul was. He also knew that God had re- 
jected Saul. And God delivered Saul into David's hands, 
so that he could have taken Saul's life at any time, if 
he had wished. David showed great faithfulness and 
humility in this, that every time he saw Saul, he bowed 
before him and saluted him as any other unhallowed 
layman would, who had not been set apart for chieftain- 
ship. Although Saul lay in wait for his life, David con- 
tinued to serve him, and worried the king's enemies as 
much as he could. On the other hand, Saul had nothing 
against David except that he knew God had chosen 
him to be king; and he showed great wickedness and 
fierce hatred in striving to slay an innocent man, one 
who served him faithfully. He likewise displayed an 

* Cf . / Samuel, xxvi. 


inordinate vanity in wishing to make away with a man 
whom God Himself had chosen to rule after him. For 
these reasons God passed a severe judgment in Saul's 
case; for He saw in Saul's heart what men could not 
perceive, though subsequently God made this fact evi- 
dent to the sight of men. But in David's case God was 
more lenient, for the reason that He found him always 
humble and faithful in everything, as He made clear to 
men later on. There is further evidence of this in the 
fact, that as soon as David learned that Saul and his 
son Jonathan had fallen, he and all his host lamented 
in great sorrow, and David spoke these words: "Be ye 
cursed, ye mountains of Gilboa! May God nevermore 
send rain or dew or growing grass upon you, for you 
led King Saul and his son Jonathan along treacherous 
paths in their flight across your summits and refused 
to show them serviceable highways, whereby they could 
save their lives from the hands of the foeman; nor did 
you provide them with sheltering ramparts upon your 
heights. It is a bitter sorrow for all the people of Israel, 
that splendid chieftains like Saul and Jonathan should 
pass away from council and government./ferreat strength 
and power have perished this day, when such excellent 
princes are fallen as Saul and Jonathan were, and the 
many good knights with many good weapons and much 
good armor who have perished with them.JLet the lesser 
men beware of God's wrath, since He has allowed the 
heathen to lay hands on His anointed. Let the multi- 
tude bewail a loss like this, that such excellent rulers 
should fall before the heathen." * Such words and many 

* Cf. David's lament in II Samuel, i: 17-27. The author has made but slight 
use of David's own language. 


more like them David spoke that day, and thus he 
lamented their death rather than rejoiced in the fact 
that the realm had fallen to him and into his keeping. 
From this you will observe how upright he was, how 
honest and free from faults. But whenever human na- 
ture caused him to fall into sin, he forthwith showed 
keen repentance, imploring God's mercy and com- 
passion; and God gave heed at once to his honest regret. 
Earlier in our conversation we have told how Ab- 
salom, King David's son, raised the whole land in re- 
volt against his father. But when David's captains 
happened to meet Absalom in battle and David learned 
of his death, he cried out in these words: " What shall 
it profit me to live, an aged man who grows weaker day 
by day, now that you, my son Absalom, are dead in the 
flowertime of youth ? Would to God that I could die 
now and that you my son might live! " * David was 
never so bitter against other men but that he would 
rather suffer death himself than see another's death, 
except where he saw that punishment was inflicted on 
the demand of justice. This was shown again at one 
time when David's entire kingdom incurred the wrath 
of God, and a pestilence came upon the realm, so violent 
that people perished by thousands. When the plague 
approached the city of Jerusalem, David beheld the 
angel, who was smiting the people, standing between 
heaven and earth with a blazing sword. And when he 
saw the angel with the sword lifted as if ready to strike, 
he placed his neck under the edge and said: "I beg 
thee, O Lord, that this sword be rather turned against 

* Cf . 77 Samuel, xviii, 33. 


my neck than that more of God's people shall now be 
slain, and that my Lord's wrath may fall upon me, who 
am guilty and worthy of punishment, and upon my 
family rather than that God's people shall be rooted 
out on my account." As soon as God saw David's regret 
and heard his very acceptable prayer, He commanded 
the angel to desist from slaying the people, and forth- 
with the plague ceased everywhere in the kingdom.* 

From these and many other similar instances you 
will now observe how full of grace and goodness David 
was toward all men v And just as God saw kindliness, 
mercy, and humility in his heart, He saw avarice, feroc- 
Jty, and unmeasured pride in Saul's heart; consequently 
every fault was graver before God in Saul's case than 
in David's; for the men were unlike. David was the 
meekest and the most merciful of men, and whenever 
he fell into any fault he implored God to spare him; but 
Saul grew fiercer and more envious the more sins he fell 
into and the nearer he saw God's wrath approaching. 
Now if you think that these answers have led you to 
a clearer understanding of the matters that you have 
asked about, I believe it will not be necessary to discuss 
these subjects any further. 



Son. I see clearly now from what you told in your 
last speech that the judgments were lenient in David's 
case, because he regretted the sins into which he fell, 

* Cf . II Samuel, xxiv. 


but more severe in Saul's case, because he was less dis- 
posed to do penance for his misdeeds. Now there are 
certain other matters which I am much interested in 
and which I shall ask about with your permission, 
namely those events that occurred after David's death. 
Once when two women came before King Solomon, 
quarreling about a child, the king ordered the child to 
be hewn in pieces and half given to each of them : * now 
I wish to ask whether, if neither of the women had 
spoken up, the king would have hewn the child asunder 
or not. 

Father. The king ordered the child to be divided be- 
cause he knew of a surety that the one who was the 
mother would not be willing to have the child divided. 

Son. I asked whether the king would have divided 
the child if the mother had kept silence. 

Father. If the mother had been so void of mercy that 
she would not ask him to spare the child, the king would 
have divided it between them. 

Son. Would it not look to you like plain murder, if 
he had slain an innocent child, seeing that it was not for 
punishment ? 

Father. It would indeed have been murder if he had 
killed the child ; still, the guilt would not have been with 
the king but with the mother, if she had failed to beg 
mercy for her child, when she heard the king render a 
fair judgment in their case, which she realized would 
mean the child's death; therefore the guilt would be 
hers if she withheld the motherly pity which could save 
the child. 

* See / Kings, iii, 16-28. 


Son. What do you think about the death of Joab and 
Adonijah, whom King Solomon slew ?/Was that a right- 
eous judgment or not ? And why did King Solomon 
cause Shimei to be slain for cursing his father David, 
seeing that David had already forgiven Shimei this , - 
offence ? S 

Father. If King Solomon had done this except as law- 
ful punishment, God would have visited him with a 
worthy penalty as for murder J But after he had done 
all this, God revealed Himself to him in a dream and 
bade him choose whatever gift he might wish. But Solo- 
mon asked God to give him wisdom and insight into 
righteous judgments. Then God answered him in this 
wise: " If this choice were given to the multitude, there 
would be many who would choose riches and power, or 
a long life, or peace, or success in warfare. But because 
thou hast chosen this thing, thou shalt receive what thou 
hast chosen and likewise all the other gifts that I have 
enumerated." From this you will observe how well God 
is pleased with righteousness in judgments; for God 
gave Solomon all the supreme gifts, because he chose 
equity as his part. And you will understand that, if he 
had slain those others unjustly, God would not have 
given him such excellent gifts as He did give him. 



Son. What you have just said does indeed seem rea- 
sonable. If Solomon had been led to execute these men 
through selfishness and injustice, he would not have 
received such excellent gifts from God, as were given 


to him after that deed was done. Still, if I may, I should 
like to ask you to point out how righteous dooms are 
worked out, in order that I may understand more 
clearly, and others too who may hear it, how Solomon 
could execute Shimei by righteous decree, when his 
father David had already forgiven him the offence.* 

Father. Solomon did this out of regard for justice 
rather than from cruelty, and for the following reasons. 
When Shimei cursed David, he did it out of impudence 
and malice, and for no just cause; but when he begged 
David for mercy, he asked it more because of fear than 
of repentance, for he was afraid that David would take 
his life as the sacred law demanded. But when he im- 
plored mercy David replied in these words: "I shall 
not slay you this time, since you implore my grace; but 
keep in mind that you will be punished for this deed, 
unless you atone in true repentance." In these words 
David pointed out to Shimei that he ought to atone 
with loving friendship for the words that he had spoken 
in sheer hatred. Shimei, however, lived the rest of his 
days in such a manner that, while no one found him 
to cherish enmity toward David, it never appeared that 
he made returns in friendship for David's mercy in per- 
mitting him to live when the law demanded his death. 
But when he came before Solomon after David's death, 
the king said to him: "Remember, Shimei, that you 
cursed the Lord's anointed; and it has not appeared 
that you have truly regretted it since. But this shall be 
a covenant between us as a reminder to repentance on 

* The story of Shimei is told in // Samuel, xvi, 5-8; xix, 16-23; I Kings, ii. 
8-9, 36-46. 


your part, that you shall not enjoy such complete free- 
dom as one who has never fallen into this sin. Now you 
have large and beautiful dwellings and many houses 
here in Jerusalem and you may live in peace within the 
city, enjoying all your possessions according to your 
desire; but if you ever go outside the city, the punish- 
ment of the law shall come upon your head, since you 
did not take thought to repent before I reminded you." 
When the king had ceased speaking, Shimei expressed 
himself as thankful for this agreement and said that he 
should find but little inconvenience in being forbidden 
to leave the city, if he might remain secure in the king's 
friendship within the city and enjoy all his possessions. 
Three years later, however, Shimei forgot this agree- 
ment and went outside the city to seek diversion,* as if 
proud of his audacity in violating the covenant. But as 
soon as these tidings were told to the king, he ordered 
Shimei to be seized and brought before him, and he said 
to him: "You have forgotten to be ashamed of having 
broken the agreement which we two made as a reminder 
that you owe repentance for having cursed the Lord's 
anointed. There is, therefore, a double guilt upon your 
head now; and it will be better for you to suffer a brief 
punishment here, so that others may be warned by your 
misfortune, than that this crime should follow you into 
eternal death, and others become bolder in such evil, if 
you die unpunished. Then the king ordered him to be 
killed and buried outside the city as a reminder and 
warning to others never to break a covenant. 

* According to the Scriptural story Shimei left Jerusalem to bring back two 
runaway servants. I Kings, ii, 39-10. 




Son. Now I wish to ask you why Solomon caused his 
brother Adonijah to be put to death for requesting 
Abishag to be his wife. 

Father. Adonijah had earlier, as you may have heard, 
led an uprising against his father. When David had be- 
come an aged man and was very decrepit because of his 
many years, Adonijah appointed himself to be king 
without his father's knowledge, and made a festive 
banquet as newly consecrated king. He sent heralds 
running through the streets with pipes and drums to 
proclaim throughout the city that Adonijah was now 
the king. The chief men who were with him in this 
plot were Joab, David's chief captain and his kinsman, 
and Abiathar the bishop, and many other lords. But 
when Zadoc the bishop, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah 
the captain, and Bathsheba the queen came as if in 
deep sorrow to tell David what great undertakings 
were hidden from him, he remained silent for some time 
but sighed heavily. At last he spoke as from a heart full 
of grief and said: " My sons are not minded like me, 
for I served King Saul many days, though he sought 
after my life. And yet God had chosen me to be king, 
for He was angry with King Saul; but I awaited the 
judgment of God by which he would be deprived of 
his kingdom; but I would not condemn him, though he 
was mine adversary. Now my son has done that to me 
which I would not do to mine enemy. But because 


Adonijah has taken the kingship to which God Himself 
appointed me, even before I had renounced it or He 
Who had chosen me had removed me, he shall fall in 
disgrace from this dignity, as that one fell who in 
arrogant pride raised the first rebellion against his 

Then David said to Zadoc the bishop: "Take my 
mule and harness him with all the accoutrements with 
which he was arrayed when I rode him in all my glory 
and set my son Solomon upon him; iand taking Nathan ~J 
the prophet with you and Benaiah the captain and all ^ 
my most loyal chiefs and knights, ride to the tabernacle S 
of the Lord in Zion * and there anoint my son Solomon^/ 
king.JThen take my own trumpet and let it be sounded 
throughout the city with a festive sound to proclaim 
that Solomon is king by the will of God and David's 
choice. After that you shall bring my son Solomon to 
me that I may welcome the newly appointed king to my 
throne." When David had ceased speaking, Zadoc the 
bishop did all those things that the king had com- 
manded. And when Solomon returned arrayed in all 
the tokens of royalty, David rose to receive him, bowed 
before him, and blessed him in these words: " Praise be 
to Thee, O God, that Thou wert pleased to exalt me 
from my low estate to such high honors as I now enjoy, 
and hast helped me in many perils, and now after much 
trouble and long toil hast brought me the consolation 
that mine eyes should behold the one sprung from my 
loins whom Thou hast Thyself chosen to sit in the seat 
of honor to which Thou didst formerly appoint me, ac- 

* Error for Gihon. 


cording to Thy promises, O Lord. Now I pray Thee, O 
Lord, give this young man David's glory and under- 
standing in double and threefold measure, make him a 
perfect ruler to govern Thy holy people according to 
Thy will." Then David kissed Solomon and said to him: 
" The God Who rules the heavens multiply peace to 
you above all the kings upon earth and give you bless- 
ings and the fruits of earth and perfect happiness." * 
When he had ended this speech and benediction, David 
said to Solomon: " Because I find that God has given 
you wisdom and understanding. jhnha.rprp ynii to gnyern 
^gisely and justly, though somewhat severely, lest the 
kingdom should seem to be lacking in government be- 
cause of vour faint-h^t^Tipss But temper the severity 
of punishment, lest you be thought too stern and merci- 
less. Remember your kinsman Joab, however, who has 
served me long and with much labor; but it is not fitting 
that the sinful deeds which he has committed should 
follow him to hell: for he slew two excellent captains 
who were in my peace, Abner and Amasa, who had 
served King Saul with great fidelity. And there are 
many others whom he slew in his overweening pride, 
but not in lawful chastisement. And it is better to let 
him suffer a brief punishment here than that he should 
be lost eternally because of these crimes. Keep also my 
promise to Shimei, though he cursed me when I fled 
from the violence of your brother Absalom; but keep 
it in such a way that he will be reminded to do penance 

* On the subject of Adonijah's rebellion and Solomon's triumphant accession 
see / Kings, i. The author has used little more than the outline of the story 
as given in the Bible. 


fpr his misdeeds, lest the curse be forever upon his head 
which he incurred when he cursed me an innocent man. 
Let kinship temper your wrath against your brother 
Adonijah, if you see that he regrets his treasonable up- 
rising against his father. Remember that the bishop 
Abiathar lost his father and all his kinsmen, because he 
gave me food, when I came to Nob a fugitive from the 
face of King Saul. Abiathar deserves well for this, too, 
that he followed me and bore the ark of God before me, 
when I fled from the face of your brother Absalom. But 
do not forget to give him a reminder to repentance for 
joining your brother Adonijah in treasonable designs 
against me, lest this offence should follow him to his 
death. Be manly, strong, and severe, but with modera- 
tion. Do the will of God in all things, and both temporal 
and eternal joys shall be added to you." * 

Then said David to Zadoc the bishop and Nathan 
the prophet: " Go now and prepare a banquet and 
lead King Solomon into my hall and let him sit in my 
high-seat amid festive joys." And they did everything 
as David bade them. But when Adonijah's feast was 
ended, the guests heard singing and piping and all forms 
of merriment, as if a new joy had come into the city. 
When Adonijah asked what the merry-making signi- 
fied, whether the rejoicing was in his honor or new 
tidings had come, it was told him that David had him- 
self given Solomon his title and all the royal honors and 
had chosen him to be king; and that Solomon was al- 
ready hallowed as king and sitting upon David's throne 

* Cf. I Kings, ii, 1-11. In the Biblical story David's charge to Solomon comes 
after the day of Solomon's accession, and not, as the author has it, during the 


in festive raiment; and that all the people rejoiced in 
the news as on a merry holiday. When Adonijah heard 
this report, great terror came upon him and all those 
who were with him in this conspiracy, and they fled 
every man to his house. But Adonijah fled to the taber- 
nacle of the Lord and laid his hand upon the sacred 
altar, as if taking vows of chastity and service in God's 
holy tabernacle. Thereupon he sent a man to the king, 
saying: " Here shall I die, unless my lord King Solomon 
will promise and assure me that he will not slay me, his 
servant, for the evil that I have done." Then King 
Solomon replied: " Adonijah is my brother by kinship; 
therefore I will gladly spare him, if he will show true 
repentance for stirring up treason and rebellion against 
his father David; and I will bear this burden with him 
before God on the condition that he must always con- 
tinue loyal, humble, and free from deceit. But if any 
treasonable ambitions be found in him, he may expect 
a swift revenge to come upon his head. Let him now go 
home to his possessions and enjoy them as long as he 
keeps what is now decreed." * 

When the hour of David's death was approaching, 
Solomon frequently visited his father; and when the 
king had departed this life, he mourned for him many 
days, he and all the lords in the kingdom; and he buried 
him with every form of royal pomp and at a vast out- 
lay. But after David's death, Adonijah begged Bath- 
sheba the queen to ask King Solomon to give him 
Abishag to wife. The facts respecting Abishag were 
these: when King David grew old, chills entered into 

* Cf. I Kings, i, 41-53. 


his flesh, so that clothes were not sufficient to keep him 
warm; Abishag was a young virgin, the fairest maid in 
the kingdom and of the best and noblest family; she 
was brought to King David's bed to lie close to him 
and warm him and cherish him, in the hope that the 
king might draw warmth from her soft and blossoming 
form and from his desire for the fair virgin. David loved 
her highly with a perfect affection, but as a foster- 
mother, not as a wife. And for this reason Abishag won 
such great honor that she came to be regarded as the 
first queen and she ranked above all the other queens 
in the eyes of the people; and thus her dignity was sanc- 
tified by David's embraces. But Adonijah had a purpose 
in seeking this marriage after David's decease, for he 
hoped in this way to obtain the kingship by deceitful 
intrigue; inasmuch as all the people would say, if he 
married Abishag, that he was most worthy to sit on 
David's throne who was most worthy to mount his bed 
and lie in the arms which David had hallowed with his 
very self. He also presumed, as seemed reasonable, that 
the brothers and all the kinsmen of Abishag would 
rather have him as king, if she were his, than a man 
who was not bound to them in this way. Queen Bath- 
sheba undertook Adonijah's errand and afterwards went 
to seek an interview with her son King Solomon. As soon 
as she had entered the royal hall, the king rose to meet 
his mother and led her to a seat at his side. Then the 
queen revealed her errand, speaking thus: "I have a 
little favor to ask of you, but I will not reveal the request 
before you promise to grant it." The king replied : " You 7 
are my mother, and I cannot refuse what you wish to 5 


ask; and I surely intend that you shall have what you 
have come to ask for. But it surely behooves you to 
keep in mind that you should ask only for what I may 
freely grant." Then said Bathsheba the queen to the 
king: " I have come to ask you to give your brother 
Adonijah Abishag to wife." 

Then King Solomon replied in great wrath: " What 
is at the bottom of this request that Abishag be given 
to Adonijah ? If you prefer that he should have the 
kingship rather than I, then ask the kingdom for him; 
for you know that my brother Adonijah is older than I 
and once assumed the royal title, being chosen by the 
chief lords before my father had appointed me to be 
ruler in obedience to the will of God. Joab the most 
powerful of the lords and captains and Abiathar the 
bishop have evidently continued plotting with him even 
to this day. Abishag is of the noblest kinship in the city 
and the whole realm; furthermore, she is honored by all 
as the first queen because of the care that she gave my 
father in his old age. If she is given to Adonijah to be 
his wife, the people will regard him as most worthy to 
sit in David's seat, since he is thought worthy to lie in 
the bed and in the arms in which David himself lay. 
Now when Adonijah had committed treason against his 
father, I offered to share the responsibility for his sin 
before God because of our kinship. But now he has re- 
peated and trebled the treason against me, his brother, 
which he first committed against his father. Therefore 
I swear by the God Who has placed me on David's 
throne that Adonijah shall suffer for his guilt, as shall 
every one of the others who are with him in this traitor- 


ous project." Then King Solomon said to Benaiah the 
captain : " Go and slay my brother Adonijah, for I would 
rather have him suffer a swift penalty here, such as the 
rules of the holy law provide for treason against one's 
lord, than to have him carry a traitor's guilt to hell, 
also Joab my kinsman, for twice he committed vile 
j offences against King David, when he slew Abner and 
J Amasa, two renowned captains, though they were in 
C David's peace and protection^ But his third and greatest 
crime is this, that he was traitor to David when he gave 
Adonijah the royal title; surely he will be lost forever in 
the world to come, unless he shall do penance in this 
world by suffering a lawful punishment." 

In this case King Solomon gives clear proof that it is 
quite permissible to break vows and promises, if what 
has been asked or granted is contrary to what is right. 
He granted what his mother Bathsheba the queen had 
come to request before he knew what it was; but as soon 
as he was aware that the prayer was a perilous one, he 
slew the man who had originally made the request. 
Benaiah did as King Solomon commanded and slew 
Adonijah. But just as Joab the captain and Abiathar 
the bishop had shared in the plans to give Adonijah the 
royal title, they also had a share in his plan to ask for 
Abishag to wife; and when they heard of Adonijah's 
death, they foresaw their own destruction. Benaiah 
seized Abiathar the bishop and led him before King 
Solomon; but Joab fled to God's tabernacle and laid his 
hand upon the sacred horn of the altar, as if taking vows 
of chastity and service in God's holy tabernacle. Benaiah 

* Cf. / Kings, ii, 13 ff. 


came to God's sanctuary and said: " Come forth, Joab, 
the king commands you to come forth out of God's 
tabernacle." But Joab replied: "I have come hither 
into God's protection, and I will suffer death here, if I 
cannot remain in security." Then Benaiah reported his 
answer to the king through his messenger; and when the 
messenger came before the king bringing the bishop 
Abiathar and related all these things, King Solomon 
said to him: " Give my command to Benaiah to slay 
Joab wherever he be found, for his deeds and the de- 
crees of the sacred law slay him and not we." Benaiah 
did as King Solomon commanded and slew Joab where 
he then stood.* 

But the king spoke in this wise to the bishop Abia- 
thar: " You know that you have deserved death accord- 
ing to the rules of the holy law; but whereas you lost 
your father and all your kinsmen in Nob in a single day, 
because your father had given my father David food, 
and whereas you also bore the ark of God before my 
father when he fled before the face of my brother Ab- 
salom, therefore it is right that for once you should 
profit from this and not suffer a sudden death. And for 
this once you shall purchase your life on the following 
terms, which you must keep as a constant reminder 
that you owe penance for the treason which you com- 
mitted against David: go now to your own fields and 
abide there as a husbandman and enjoy all your pos- 
sessions, on the condition, however, that you remain a 
tiller of the soil. But if you ever stretch forth your hand 
to perform any priestly service or office, the righteous 

* Cf. 7 Kings, ii, 28-34. 


penalty of the sacred law shall surely come upon your 
head." * Abiathar went home and did as the king com- 
manded and lived many days; but Shimei died three 
years later, because he failed to keep what had been 
commanded, as we have already told. 



Son. There are still a few points which, it seems to 
me, I have not examined sufficiently. How did it occur 
to Solomon to break peace with Joab, seeing that he 
had fled into God's protection and into the house, the 
only one in all the world, that was dedicated to God ? 
Churches have now^been built^ in almost^ every part of 
the world, and it is considered an evil deed to slay a man 
who has sought sanctuary. But I have thought that the 
honor of God's holy house would be the more zealously 
guarded the fewer such houses were. Another matter 
which I wish to ask about is this: how did it occur to 
Solomon to promise what his mother might request and 
then to break his promise ? I should have thought that 
a wise man like Solomon would have ascertained what 
the request was likely to be before he gave his promise, 
and thus avoid recalling his promise, if the request were 
not to his liking. 

Father. I stated in an earlier speech that he who 
makes a request should be discreet and ask such things 
only as are proper and may be freely granted; and all 

* Cf. / King,, ii, 26-27. 


those favors that are wisely asked and granted in like 
manner ought to remain valid and undisturbed. But 
Solomon set a good and profitable example in this case, 
when he wisely withdrew the gift that his mother had 
indiscreetly requested, though he had already granted 
it. The following example which is evil and belongs to 
a much later date was set by Herod: once when he was 
feasting in Galilee he promised to give his step-daughter 
whatever she might ask; and on her mother's advice she 
demanded the head of John the Baptist.* Herod knew 
that John was an innocent and holy man and deeply 
regretted that he had made this promise. But his re- 
pentance bore no fruit, inasmuch as he was not careful 
to withdraw the gift wisely which she had requested 
foolishly; nay more, he did the evil deed that she had 
suggested. Consequently all were destroyed, the women 
because of their request and Herod because of his gift. 
King Solomon, however, thought it better to face his 
mother's wrathful temper for refusing wisely what he 
had promised hastily, than to suffer the injury that 
follows the great crime of allowing foolish and sinful 
petitions. On the other hand, you should understand 
clearly that it is never proper for a man to be fickle in 
promises, and the greater the man, the less fitting it is. 
But no man is allowed to ^rant anything that may 
give rise to crime and sin, even though lie has already 
promised to Ho so. 

* Cf. Matthew xiv, 1-12; Mark, vi, 16-29. 




Son. Now I wish to ask you to tell me somewhat more 
clearly how far one should keep what he has pledged 
and how far he may refuse to carry out what he has 

Father. When a lord is asked to grant a favor and 
the meaning of the request is made clear to him, he 
wight toj>ojicler carefully ^wEat itJstnatEe is asked to 
dp and whether it will brin^ him injury or honor. If he 
sees that he can grant it without damage to himself, he 
ought next to consider the person to whom he is to give 
what has been asked, and how much may be given in 
each case, lest he should have an experience like that of 
Herod, which has already been related. For Herod did 
not consider fully the merits of the one who made the 
request, or the occasion, or how much he ought to give. 
There was this difficulty, too, in Herod's case, that he 
was drunk when he made the promise; he had made a 
great banquet for all his lords, and he failed to consider 
the occasion; for it was not proper for him to make gifts 
while drunk, since one who is drunk will rarely be mod- 
erate in making gifts .^fre also failed to observe modera- 
tionjn this, that he gave such an unusual gift to his 
step-daughter, a woman who was not of his kin, for he 
spoke in these terms: " Whatsoever you ask I will give 
you, though you ask hah* of my kingdom.'^ You will 
observe from this that he was half -mad from drink when 
he spoke, for his step-daughter had honored him merely 


by beating the drum before him, and her music was en- 
titled to a much smaller reward than the one promised. 
Nor was it fitting for him to leave the form of the re- 
quest as well as of the gift to the tongues of others, as 
he did when he spoke as follows: " Whatsoever you ask 
you shall have, though you ask half of my kingdom." 
But if he had spoken in this wise :L_Wh ate ver you ask 
with discretion and in moderation you shall receive, if 
I can give it,' Mpen he would have spoken wisely and 
well, and it would have remained with him whether to 
grant or to refuse. 

It now remains to point out what sort of gifts a ruler 
may properly give, when he is asked to do so.bVny re- 
quest may be granted which will bring honor and help 
to him who asks and will bring no damage to the lord 
who gives or to any one elsej^Thus if a lord is asked to 
give assistance or money, he may well give it, unless 
his honor should be discredited by the gift; and he may 
properly give both the labor and the money so long as 
he gives them to such as are worthy of great honors. 
But when one is asked to grant a request that would 
debase or dishonor him, he must refuse it; and even 
though he should make a promise thoughtlessly, it is 
to be wisely withdrawn. And if a man bestows a gener- 
ous gift, on one who shows little appreciation of it and 
is in no wise worthy to have a long and_continued pos- 
session of an important gift, inasmuch as he does not 

show proper appreciation, this gift, too, should be with- 
drawn; for in this case the man's own thoughtlessness 
and lack of discernment take the gift from him and not 
the fickleness of him who gave. And if one who desired 



a gift has obtained it through falsehood and deceitful 
pretence, that gift is also to be withdrawn, even though 
it has been granted; and in this case the man's own frn.ur) 
and deceit take the ffif t from him and not the fickleness 
of him who promised and gave it. But a prince who 
means to be cautious in making gifts must consider 
carefully what is requested, and what sort of man has 
made the request. And since all do not deserve equally 
great gifts, one must consider how great a gift each 
one deserves and on what occasion a gift may be given. 
Then it shall be said but very seldom that he who gave 
has withdrawn his gift or that he has been found to be 



Son. Now I wish to ask what good reasons there are 
which would justify King Solomon's act hi causing Joab 
to be slain in God's holy tabernacle while he was cling- 
ing to God's sacred altar. Why did he not order him to 
be brought away first and slain afterwards ? 

Father. The matter about which you have now in- 
quired cannot be made clear without a lengthy expla- 
nation, which will seem more like a comment than a 
proper continuation of the conversation in which we 
are now engaged. When Solomon concluded that it was 
better to slay Joab where he then was than to bring 
him away, he was not without good grounds for his 
decision; for he did not wish to fall into such a sin as 
King Saul fell into when he brought sacrifices to God's 


holy altar. Now Solomon did not wish to make this a 
pretext that he intended to bring gifts or sacrifices to 
God's holy altar, as if he were carrying out episcopal 
functions; nor did he wish to take away by force or 
violence anything that had come so near God's holy 
altar as Joab then was, inasmuch as he was clinging to 
the sacred altar. But Solomon pondered the whole mat- 
ter in his own mind :/^ It is my duty to carry out the 
provisions of the sacred law, no matter where the man 
happens to be whose case is to be determined; but it is 
not my duty to remove a man by force or violence who 
has fled to the holy place; for all just decisions are in 
truth God's decisions and not mine. [And I know of. a 
surety that God's holy altar will not be defiled or dese- 
crated by Joab's blood, for it will be shed in righteous 
punishment and as a penance for him, but not in hatred 
as in the case of an unjust verdict." In this decision 
King Solomon illustrated the division of duties that 
God made between Moses and Aaron; and he did not 
wish to disturb this arrangement, lest he should fall 
into disfavor with God. /For God had marked out their 
duties in such a way that Moses was to watch over the 
rules of the holy law, while Aaron was to care for the 
sacrifices that might come to the sacred altarj And_ 

YOU Shall knOW Of a truth that %'ff 

by right to stand even at this day: and you may be 
able to see this more clearly, if I add a few words in 
explanation. For the reason is this, that God has estab- 
lished two houses upon earth, each chosen for a_defimie 
service. The one is the church; in fact we may give this 

* See Exodus, xxviii. 


name to both, if we like, for the word church means 

the same as judgment hall, because there the people 

meet and assemble. These two houses are the halls of 

God, and He has appointed two men to keep watch 

over them. In one of these halls He h^a pjarpr! TTk 

table, and this is called the house of bread; for there 

God's people gather to receive spiritual food. But in the 

^ , other hall He hasplaced His holy judgment seat; and 

' there^ the people assemble to hear the interpretation 

""C 1 God's holy verdicts/ And God has appointed two 

< keepers to guard these nouses: the one is the king, the 

C other the bishpjg. J 

Now the king is appointed to keep watch over the 
sacred house in which the holy seat is placed and to 
keep the holy verdicts of God. In temporal matters he 
is to judge between men and in such .a way . thatjthe - 
reward of etern^sajvationj^ 

all others who after his day uphold the decisions that 
have been justly rendered. Into his hands God has also 
committed the sword of punishment with which to 
strike when the need arises, just as King Solomon did 
when he laid Joab under the sword of chastisement, 
with many others whom he subjected to righteous pen- 
alties, as we have already told. The king, then, must 
always strike, not in hatred but for righteous punish- 
ment. But if he slay any one out of hatred, it is murder, 
and he will have to answer for it as murder before God. 
You shall also know of a truth that no one is allowed to \ 
pluck away any of those things that God from the be- 
ginning has assigned to His hall and high-seat; for that / 
would be to rob God Himself and His holy judgmeny 


seat and to disturb arrogantly; the arrangement which 
God has made. And every one who is assigned to this 
seat should ponder in deep thought what plea he shall 
have to present when he comes before his own Judge; 
for every man who comes in his turn before the Highest 
Judge, having been steward in His hall, may confidently 
expect Him to employ some mode of address like the 
following: " Thou bearest Mine own name, forjjthou art 
both king and judge as I am; therefore I demand that 
thou render account for thy stewardship, inasmuch as 
thou art the appointed judge and leader of My people/^J 
Wherefore each one will need to prepare after long re- 
flection and with great care what he is to reply when 
he comes before the Judge. If the archangel, in whom 
there is no sign of weakness, gives his answer with fear 
and trembling, when he is called upon to render account 
for his services to our Lord and King, one can imagine 
what fear and trembling will come upon a frail and sin- 
ful man, when he is asked to render account for his 
stewardship in the presence of God. But he who has 
had this hall in his keeping will first of all be asked how 
he has dealt out justice among men; and if he is unable 
to give a satisfactory account, he may expect to hear 
this sentence: " Thou wicked thrall, since thou hast not 
observed justice in thy verdicts, thou shalt fare thither 
where all verdicts are evil; for thine own mouth has 
assigned thee to this place, inasmuch as it was not 
ashamed to deliver dishonest judgments." But if he 
can defend the justice of his decisions with good rea- 
sons, he shall find joy in his stewardship and hear these 


words: " Inasmuch as thou hast always observed equity 
as a judge, it is fitting that thou shouldst enjoy a right- 
eous verdict on every count." He will then bejiaked 
further on what some ^.of^hi^actions^j^ere ^ based; and 
.-it'ter th:;t h- will have to -how how <ii>creeUy and care- 
fully he has kept all those things which God. in the be- 
ginning committed to this judgment seat. But if he has 
not kept all those things which God in the beginning 
assigned to the holy seat of judgment, he will be brought 
face to face with those who have done their duty well, 
such as Melchisedek or Moses or David or others who 
have observed these things as faithfully as those named. 
Then he will hear these words spoken : " If thou hadst 
been as thoughtful and solicitous as these were in main- 
taining the honors which I joined in the beginning to 
My holy judgment seat, thou wouldst have received 
the same rewards as these enjoy. But now thou shalt 
be deprived of an honor here as great as the honor which 
thou didst take without right from My judgment seat; 
and to that degree shalt thou be regarded less in worth 
and merit than those who have kept these honors un- 
impaired which I entrusted to them. When thou wert 
given charge of My judgment seat, fit was not intended 
that thou shouldst have power to dispose of services, 
honors, and holy dignities in a manner different from 
the one that I established in the beginning.Jj?or this 
office was not given thee as an everlasting inheritance, 
but it was committed to thee for a time only, that thou 
mightest obtain an eternal reward, if thou didst guard it 
faithfully, jfhou wert given power to distribute worldly 


riches, gold and silver, though with discretion^ but not 
to dispose of the honors and glories of My holy judg- 

But if it is found that he has been discreet in his 
charge, he shall have cause to rejoice in his stewardship; 
he will, however, be examined in various lines. Jle will be 
asked how he has used the rod of punishment which was 
given into his hands; and it is very important that justice 
shall have^een Strictly observed in penalties, lest it go 
so ill with him as with King Saul, who failed to inflict 
a just penalty which God had commanded him to exe- 
cute on the people who dwelt in Amalek, but slew un- 
justly the bishop Ahimelech and all the priests in Nob. 
But if it should go so ill with him who is thus called to 
account for penalties inflicted, that he is found to have 
stumbled in matters like those just mentioned and in 
which King Saul fell, he will soon hear these words: 
" Lead him yonder where King Saul and Herod and 
Nero and others like them abide, and let him dwell 
there with them, seeing that he wished to be like them 
in cruelty." Still, if in some cases he has been merciful 
in sentence and punishment and if there is good reason 
why he should escape the reproaches that we have just 
mentioned, those facts will not be forgotten. For then 
he shall find happiness in all his stewardship and very 
soon shall hear this greeting: " Thou art welcome, thou 
faithful servant and good friend, for thou hast loyally 
kept a slight temporal dignity; now thou shalt come into 
joyful possession of a great honor, constant and ever- 
lasting, wholly free from sorrow and danger." Happy 
is he who is permitted to hear these words; but wretched 


is he who shall hear those words of wrath which we 
quoted earlier. But no one needs to doubt that every- 
one who shall be called to account for his office and 
stewardship will be addressed in one of these two ways. 



Son. I see clearly that one who is to watch over the 
rules of the sacred law and deal out justice in all cases 
is surely assigned a very difficult task. It is also evident 
that King Solomon could not be called to account for 
having Joab slain in God's tabernacle, inasmuch as he 
slew him for a just punishment, not out of enmity or in 
hatred, as Cain slew his brother Abel. God's tabernacle 
was not defiled by Joab's blood, seeing that it was not 
shed in hatred; but the earth was defiled by Abel's 
blood, because it was shed in hatred. And I understand 
fully that the sin and the desecration are caused by the 
hatred and not by the punishment. But now you have 
spoken of two halls which God has dedicated to His 
service upon earth, and there are certain things that 
concern these about which I wish to inquire. You have 
stated that in one of them God has placed His judgment 
seat; you have discussed that and also the office of him 
who is in charge of it. You have also said that in the 
other hall is God's table, from which all God's people 
shall take spiritual food; and you added that the bishop 
has been appointed keeper of this hall. Now I wish 
to ask you why King Solomon removed Abiathar the 


bishop from the office that had been assigned to him. 
namely that of keeper of the hall to which I have just 
referred, and removed him so completely that he was 
never afterwards allowed to put forth his hand to the 
episcopal office, but was to live from that time on as a 
churl or a plowboy. But I have thought that neither 
of these two keepers can have authority to remove the 
other from the office which_hasjbeen [committed to him. 
Therefore I should like to have you point out a few 
considerations which will make clear how King Solomon 
could remove the bishop Abiathar from his office with- 
out incurring reproof from God. 

Father. I called your attention to these facts to re- 
mind you that both these halls are God's houses and 
both king and bishop the servants of God and keepers 
of these houses; but they ^Q no^^wn^.hem in the sense 
that they can take anything away from them that was 
assigned to them in the beginning. Therefore the king 
must not pluck anything away from the house which 
the bishop has in his keeping, for neither should rob 
the other. And there should be no plundering of one by 
the other, but each ought to support the other for the 
same One owns both houses, namely God. I have also 
told you that God has given the rod of punishment into 
the hands of both the king and the bishop ./The rod of 
punishment that has been committed to the king is a 
two-edged sword : with this sword it is his duty to smite 
to the death everyone who tries to take anything away 
from the sacred hall of which he is the guardianT/But 

e king's sword is two-edged for the reason that it is 
also his duty to guard the house which is in the bishop's 


(, keepingDif the bishop is unable to defend it with his 
own rod of punishment. The bishop shall have his rod 
of punishment in his mouth, and he shall smite with 
words but not with hands like the king. And the bishop 
shall strike his blow in the following manner: if any one 
attempt to dishonor the sacred hall that is in his care, 
he shall refuse him the table which is placed in this holy 
house and the holy sustenance which is taken from this 
table. But when King Solomon deprived Abiathar the 
bishop of the episcopal office and dignity, he said t ha. t. 
Abiathar's own guilt deprived him and not he( Since he 
had decreed that David should forfeit his throne before 
God had ordered it, and had chosen another king to 
replace David, while he was still living, it was right to 
deprive him of the episcopal office, seeing that he wanted 
to rob David of the royal office. {Saul's guilt, on the 
other hand, when he had slain the bishop Ahimelech 
and all the priests in the city of Nob, was a grievous 
burden, because he had done this without just cause. 
But even if King Solomon should have killed the bishop 
Abiathar, he would have been without guilt; for the 
bishop had deprived the house of God of the lord whom 
God Himself had appointed keeper of the holy judg- 
ment seat. The bishop Abiathar had no right either to 
appoint or to remove any one, as was later made evident; 
for David chose the one whom he wished to be king in 
his stead, and the choice which Abiathar had made was 
of no effect. Abiathar the bishop obtained the episcopal 
office through the will of David who appointed him to 
it. Now you are to understand that there is this differ- 
ence between the business of a king and the duties of a 


bishop : the bishop is appointed to be the king's teacher, 
counsellor, and guide, while the king is appointed to be 

a judge and a man of severity in matters of punishment, 

to the great terror of all who are subject to him. Never- 

theless, the bishop wields a rod of punishment as well 

/ as the king. There is this difference, how r ever, between 

I the king's sword and that of the bishop, that the king's 

\ sword always bites when one strikes with it, and bites 

\to great injury W 7 hen it is used without right, while it 

/serves him well whom it may strike when it is rightfully 

/ used. But the bishop's sword bites only when it is used 

( rightfully; when it is wrongfully used, it injures him 

V who smites with it, not him who is stricken. 

pishop strikes rightfully, however, his sword wounds 
even more deeply than the king's. But this subject we 
shall discuss more fully at some other time, if it is 
thought advisable. 



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ed. J. M. Lappenberg (Mon. Ger. Hist. Scriptores, VTI), Hanover, 

Adventures of Suibhne GeiU, translated by J. G. O'Keefe (Irish 
Text Society, xii), London, 1913. 

ALEXANDER NECKAM: De Naturis Rerum Libri Duo, ed. Thomas 
Wright (Rolls Series, No. 34), London, 1863. 

ASHER, G. M.: Henry Hudson the Navigator (Hakluyt Society), 
London, 1860. 

BEDE: Opera Omnia (Migne, Patrologia Latina, xc-xcv), Paris, 

BERNARD (Saint): Opera Omnia (Migne, Patrologia Latina, 
CLXXXII-CLXXXV), Paris, 1854. 

BLOM, OTTO: Bemoerkninger om Kongespeilets Affattelsestid (Aar- 
boger for Nordisk Oldkyndighed og Historic), Copenhagen, 1867. 

BLOM, OTTO: Lodbossen fra Vedelspang (Aarboger for Nordisk 
Oldkyndighed og Historic), Copenhagen, 1872. 

BULL, EDVARD: Interdiktet mot Sverre (Historisk Tidsskrift, Femte 
Rsekke, in), Christiania, 1915. 

CAPELLA, see Martianus Capella. 

CLAUSSON, PEDER: Norrigis Bescri/uelse, Copenhagen, 1633. 

Corpus Poeticum Boreale, ed. Gudbrand Vigfusson and F. York 
Powell, Oxford, 1883, 2 vols. 

COSMAS: The Christian Topography of Cosmas, an Egyptian Monk, 
translated by J. W. McCrindle, London, 1897. 

DAAE, LUDVIG: Studier angaaende Kongespeilet (Aarboger for Nor- 
disk Oldkyndighed og Historic), Copenhagen, 1896. 

Elucidarium, see Honorius of Autun. 

Elucidarius (Annaler for Nordisk Oldkyndighed og Historic), Co- 
penhagen, 1852 (Danish translation), 1853 (Icelandic text). 

FALK, HJALMAR: Altnordische Waffenkunde (Skrifter utgit af Vi- 
denskapsselskapet, n, Historisk-filosofisk Klasse), Christiania, 



FIGGIS, JOHN NEVILLE: The Theory of the Divine Right of Kings, 
Cambridge, 1896. 

GIRALDUS CAMBRENSIS: Opera, ed. J. S. Brewer, James F. Dimock, 
and G. F. Warner (Rolls Series, No. 21), London, 1861-91, 8 vols. 

GEELMUYDEN, HANS: Om Stedetfor Kongespeilets Forfattelse (Arkiv 
for Nordisk Filologi, i), Christiania, 1883. 

GIBBON, EDWARD: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed. 
J. B. Bury, London, 1912. 

GJERSET, KNUT: History of the Norwegian People, New York, 1915, 
2 vols. 

Hdkonar Saga, ed. Gudbrand Vigfusson and G. W. Dasent, Icelan- 
dic Sagas, n, iv (Rolls Series, No. 88), London, 1887-94, 2 vols. 

HEFFERMEHL, A. V. : Presten Ivar Bodde (Historiske Skrif ter Tileg- 
nede og Overleverede Professor Dr. Ludvig Daae), Christiania, 

Heilagra Manna Sogur, ed. C. R. Unger, Christiania, 1877, 2 vols. 

HEINZEL, RICHARD: Excurs uber den Mythus von den vier Tochtern 
Gottes (Zeitschrift fur deutsches Alterthum, Neue Folge, v), Berlin, 

HERRMANN, PAUL: Island in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart, Leipzig, 
1907, 2 vols. 

HERTZBERG, EBBE: Den forste norske Kongekroning (Historisk 
Tidsskrift, Fjerde Rsekke, in), Christiania, 1905. 

HONORIUS OF AUTUN: Opera Omnia (Migne, Patrologia Latina, 
CLXXII), Paris, 1854. 

HOVGAARD, WILLIAM: The Voyages of the Norsemen to America, 
New York, 1914. 


HUGH OF SAINT VICTOR: Opera Omnia (Migne, Patrologia Latina, 
CLXXV-CLXXVII), Paris, 1854. 

ISIDORE (Saint) of Seville: Opera Omnia (Migne, Patrologia La- 
tina, LXXXI-LXXXIV), Paris, 1850. 

JACOBUS DE VORAGINE: The Golden Legend, ed. George V. O'Neill, 
Cambridge, 1914. 

Kongespegelen, translated by K. Audne, Oslo [Christiania], 1909-13. 

Kongespeilet i Uddrag, translated by Chr. Dorph, Copenhagen, 

Kongespeilet, ed. R. Keyser, P. A. Munch, and C. R. Unger, Chris- 
tiania, 1848. 


Rongs-skuggsio, Del Kongelige Speil, Speculum Regale, ed. Half dan 
Einersen, Soroe, 1768. 

Konungs Skuggsjd, ed. George T. Flom (Published by the Univer- 
sity of Illinois), Urbana, 1915. 

LARSON, LAURENCE M. : The Household of the Norwegian Kings in 
the Thirteenth Century (American Historical Review, xm), 1908. 

LARSON, LAURENCE M.: Scientific Knowledge in the North in the 
Thirteenth Century (Publications of the Society for the Advance- 
ment of Scandinavian Study, i, No. 4), 1913. 

Macrobius, ed. F. Eyssenhardt, Leipzig, 1893. 
Martianus Capella, ed. F. Eyssenhardt, Leipzig, 1866. 

Meregarto, Denkmaler deutscher Poesie und Prosa, ed. K. Mullen- 
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MEYER, KUNO: Irish Memorabilia in the Speculum Regale (Eriu, 
iv), 1910. 

MUNCH, PETER ANDREAS: Del norske Folks Historic, Christiania, 
1852-63, 8 vols. 

NANSEN, FRIDTJOF: In Northern Mists, London, 1911, 2 vols. 

NENNIUS: The Irish Version of the Historia Britonum of Nennius, 
ed. James Henthorn Todd and Algernon Herbert (Irish Archeolog- 
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Norges gamle Love indtil 1387, ed. R. Keyser, P. A. Munch, Gustav 
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OLAFSEN, O.: Falkefangsten i Norge (Historisk Tidsskrift, Femte 
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OLSON, JULIUS E. and E. G. BOURNE (editors) : The Northmen, Co- 
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PETIT DE JULEVILLE, L.: Les My stores, Paris, 1880, 2 vols. 

PETRUS ALFONSUS: Disdplina Clericalis (Migne, Patrologia Latina, 
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PETRUS COMESTOR: Historia Scholastica (Migne, Patrologia Latina, 
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AARON, high priest in Israel, 

280, 284, 358. 
Abbot, 294, 325. 
Abel, 330, 363. 

Abiathar, Hebrew priest, 46, 47, 
333, 344, 347, 351-353, 363- 

Abiram, Hebrew rebel, 279, 283. 
Abishag, David's wife, 344, 348- 


Abishai, David's companion, 335. 
Abner, Hebrew captain, 346, 

Absalom, David's son, 325, 338, 

346, 347. 

Acrifolium (aquifolium), 107. 
Adam, 252-257, 261, 266-273. 
Adam von Bremen, 19 note. 
" Address to the Norwegian 
People," King Sverre's, 39^-6, 
49, 58, 59. 
Adonijah, David's son, 46, 64, 

Agag, king of Amalek, 326. 
Ahasuerus, Persian king, 237- 

240, 244. 
Ahimelech, Hebrew priest, 331- 

333, 362, 365. 
Albertus Magnus, medieval 

schoolman, 2. 
Ale springs, 134. 

Alexander Neckam, medieval 
scientist, 12, 18. 


Alfonso the Wise, Spanish king, 

Amalek, Amalekites, 52, 279, 

283, 319, 325, 326, 362. 
Amasa, Hebrew captain, 346,351. 
Amorites, 319, 326. 
Andenes, headland in Lofoten, 


Angels, 261-263, 309, 338, 360. 
Ant, Habits of the, 92. 
Apples, St. Kevin's, 113; of 

knowledge, 252, 253, 255, 


Apulia, Southern Italy, 96, 97. 
Arctic, Marvels of the, 21, 105, 

119-126, 135-141. 
Armor, 217-220. 
Arnamagnean collection, 65, 68. 
Artaxerxes, Persian king, 237. 
Arthurian legends, 2, 3. 
Asp, serpent in Paradise, 264. 
Athens, 309, 310, 312. 
Augustine, Saint, 40. 
Aura, 172. 

BACON, Roger, medieval scien- 
tist, 2. 

Balances of justice, The, 306, 

Baleen whale, 120. 

Basking sharks, 122 note. 

Bathsheba, Uriah's wife, 323- 
325, 344, 348-351; see Uriah. 



Beaked whale, 120, 123. 

Beams used in warfare, 216, 224, 

Beard, how trimmed and worn 

at court, 182. 
Bearded seal, 140. 
Bears in Greenland, 143. 
Beasts, Instincts of, 91, 92, 111, 

Bede, medieval writer, 5, 16 

note, 18, 20, 147 note, 257 

Beluga, a sort of whale, 120 

Benaiah, Hebrew captain, 344, 

345, 351, 352. 
Bengjerd (Berengaria), Danish 

queen, 31. 
Bergen, 26, 46. 
Bernard, Saint, 257 note. 
Bethany, Hebrew town, 289. 
Bethlehem, Hebrew town, 329. 
Birchshanks, anti-clerical fac- 
tion in Norway, 37, 52, 61, 

63, 64. 
Birds, Joy of, at coming of 

spring, 90, 91. 
Birger, Swedish earl, 4, 30. 
Birka, old Swedish town, 82 

Bishops, Political claims of, 36- 

38, 55; 

hostile to the monarchy, 40, 


subordinate to the king, 174, 

authority of, 358, 359, 363- 


mention of, 117, 178, 241, 

280, 281, 291, 294, 325, 326, 
331, 344, 345. 

Bjarkey code, a municipal law, 

Bjarkudal bog, Norwegian mar- 
vel, 104. 

Blandina (Slieve Bloom moun- 
tains in Iceland), 107. 

Blom, Otto, Captain hi Danish 
artillery, 32, 62, 63. 

Blood fine, 61. 

Blubber cutters, 119. 

" Bluemen " (negroes), 30. 

Bornhoved, Battle of, 3. 

Brattices, 222. 

Breastplate, 219. 

Breeches for mounted warriors, 

Breeding, Good, 227-229. 

Brendan, Irish saint, 125 note. 

Brenner, Otto, editor of Specu- 
lum Regale, 69. 

"Briar," weapon for defense, 223. 

British Isles, 29. 

Broadax, 215. 

CAAING whale, 119. 

Caesar, Christ's submission to, 
43, 248, 249. 

Cain, 330, 363. 

Caltrop, device used in warfare, 

Cap, hat, or coif, When not to 
wear a, 182, 184, 227. 

Capella, Martianus, encyclope- 
dist, 5, 147 note. 

Cassiodorus, encyclopedist, 5. 

Castles, Weapons for attacking 
or defending, 220-226. 



Cat, siege engine, 221, 222. 

Chansons de geste, 2. 

Cherubim, 270. 

Chess, 83, 228. 

Christiania, 68. 

Christiania edition of the King's 

Mirror, 62, 68, 69, 71. 
Christina, Norwegian princess, 


Christopher, Danish king, 30. 
Church, The, relation of, to the 

monarchy, 35-38, 55, 357- 


ambitions of, 36, 37; 

opposed by King Sverre, 40. 
Clausson, Peder, Norwegian 

writer, 65. 

Climate of Iceland and Green- 
land, 15, 96, 143, 148, 149, 


of Ireland, 23, 24, 105, 106; 

affected by changes in the 

sun's course, 96-99. 
Cloena (Clonmacnois), Irish 

borough, 116, 117. 
Clothes, 181, 182, 219, 227, 254, 


Coal, Use of, in warfare, 215. 
Cologne, 28. 
Conduct, Rules of, 80-83, 85, 

182-189, 205-211, 227, 228. 
Constantine, 240-244. 
Conversation, Rules governing, 

186-191, 209, 210, 227. 
Copenhagen, 66, 67, 68. 
" Corse seal," 139. 
Cosmas, Egyptian monk and 

writer, 18 note. 
Court, The royal, customs of, 

73, 173, 176-179, 183, 208- 


promotion at, 169; 

fashions at, 18 1-186; 

speech and conversation at, 

186, 187; 

habits suitable to life at, 208- 

Courtesy, Rules of, 11, 227, 

228; see court. 

Crafts and professions, 73, 78. 
Craton, Roman philosopher, 242- 


Crossbow, 215, 220. 
Croziermen, clerical faction in 

Norway, 37, 38, 54, 56. 
Crusades, Importance of, for 

the spread of culture, 27, 32, 

Culture in the medieval North, 

Curtain, a type of fortification, 

Cyrus, 237. 

DAAE, Ludvig, Norwegian his- 
torian, 44, 57, 62. 

Dagmar (Dragomir), Danish 
queen, 31. 

Dante, 49. 

Dart, 215. 

Dathan, Hebrew rebel, 279, 

David, king of Israel, 42, 46, 52, 
249, 275, 276, 278, 281, 284, 
290, 291, 317, 320-342, 344- 

Dearth and failure of crops and 
morals, 33, 193-204. 



Death penalty, 318-321. 

Defens&r Pads, 49. 

De Monarchia, 49. 

Denmark, 3, 30, 38, 67. 

Dialogs of Gregory the Great, 

127, 130. 

Dice, Warning against, 83, 228. 
Diermicius, Irish saint, 111. 
Dirk, 219. 

Disciplina Clericalis, 9, 10, 26. 
Disobedience, Sin of, 52, 53, 

325, 326. 
Divine right of kings, 41-45, 

49, 59, 246-250, 357, 358, 360, 


Dooms, see judgments and pen- 
Dorph, Chr., translator of the 

King's Mirror, 70 note. 
Dragons, 103. 
Drunkenness, Warning against, 

83, 207, 210. 

EARTH, Shape and constitution 

of the, 12-15, 97, 128, 148, 

Earthquakes, 17, 18, 20, 21, 126, 

Egypt, 235, 236, 240, 243, 279, 

Einersen, Halfdan, editor of the 

King's Mirror, 66, 67. 
Elgesseter, Monastery of, 48, 52, 


Elks, 29. 
Ell, 119 note. 
Eluddarium, 10, 75 note, 131 

Embassies, 29-31, 172, 177, 178. 

Emmanuel, see Manuel. 

Encyclopedists, 5, 6. 

England, 2, 29, 58. 

Erichsen, Jon, Icelandic scholar, 
61, 67, 70. 

Erik, Swedish duke, 65 note. 

" Erken-seal," 139. 

Erling Skakke, Norwegian mag- 
nate, 36. 

Esquimaux, 79 note. 

Esther, queen of Persia, 238, 
239, 244. 

Ethical ideas of the King's 
Mirror, 11, 77, 78, 80-83, 85, 
205-207, 213, 214, 228-234. 

Etna, Mount, 17. 

Eve, the first woman, 252-255, 

Excommunication, 38, 40, 365, 

Eystein, Norwegian archbishop, 
36, 38, 46. 

FALCONS, 31, 144. 

Faroes, 4, 37. 

Finns, 79 note, 173 note. 

Finsen, Hans, Icelandic bishop, 

61, 66, 67. 
Fire, Source of, 129. 
" Fish driver," a sort of whale, 

120, 121. 

Fishes, Instincts of, 90. 
Flemish towns, 2. 
" Flett seal," 139. 
Flom, G. T., editor of the King's 

Mirror, 25 note, 69, 70. 
France (and French), 26, 28, 39, 

Frederick II, emperor, 30, 44. 



GALILEE, 354. 

Gambison, defensive covering, 

212, 217-219. 
Gardar, diocese in Greenland, 

145 note. 

Garth, King's, 167. 
Geelmuyden, Hans, Norwegian 

astronomer, 59. 
" Gelts," 116. 
Geography of the King's Mirror , 


Germany, 27, 28, 33, 182. 
Gests, a higher class in the 

king's guard, 170, 171. 
Geysers, 21, 128, 130, 131. 
Giraldus Cambrensis, medieval 

writer, 22-24, 104 note, 106- 

110 notes. 

Gjerset,Knut, historian, 168 note. 
Glaciers, 21, 130, 131, 151. 
Glass, molten, for defensive 

warfare, 224. 
Glosses, 272-278. 
Glumelaga (Glendalough), Irish 

abbey, 112. 
Goliath, 329. 
Gota River, 30. 
Grampus, 119, 120. 
Greenland, Geography and cli- 
mate of, 4, 15, 16, 138, 139, 


northern lights in, 18, 146, 


whales in the waters of, 18, 


marvels of, 21, 101, 105, 135- 


products and resources of, 

142-145, 149. 

Greenland sharks, 122. 
Greenland whale, 123, 124. 
Gregory the Great, 17, 40, 127, 


Gregory VII, 36. 
Grosseteste, English bishop, 257 

Guardsmen, King's, 6, 26, 176; 

see kingsmen, hirdmen, and 


HAIR, how trimmed and worn 

at court, 182. 
Hakon IV, Norwegian king, 4, 6, 

22, 29-35, 48, 57, 58, 60, 64, 65. 
Hakon V, Norwegian king, 65 

note. . 

Hakon' s Saga, 30. 
Halberd, 215. 
Halogaland, district in northern 

Norway, 59, 98, 99. 
Haman, magnate at the Persian 

court, 238-240, 245. 
Hamburg, 36. 
Hand sling, 213, 221. 
Hansa, the German, 2, 27. 
Hares in Greenland, 143. 
Harold Gilchrist (Gille), 34, 37. 
Hauberk, 219. 

Hawks, 29, 297, 298; see falcons. 
Headward, 171. 
Heavenly bodies, Course of the, 

11,83,86; see sun and moon. 
Hebrides, 4. 
Hebron, 321. 
" Hedgehog," defensive weapon, 

222, 223. 
Heffermehl, A. V., Norwegian 

writer, 39 note, 57, 62. 



Helena, mother of Constantine, 

241, 244. 

Hell, place of cold and heat, 131. 
Helmet, 219. 

Henry III, English king, 29, 58. 
Herod, Jewish king, 354-356, 

Hertzberg, Ebbe, Norwegian 

historian, 36 note. 
Hezekiah, king of Juda, 288, 


Hirdmen, Honored position of, 

171, 174-176; 

duties of, 177; 

habits and diversions of, 207- 


Historia Scholastica, 6, 10. 
Hiterdale, place in Iceland, 134. 
" Hog whale," 120, 123. 
Holar, town in Iceland, 66. 
Holly, holm, 107. 
Holstein, 27. 
Holy Spirit, Office and gifts of 

the, 275, 292, 294. 
Honorius of Autun, medieval 

theologian, 10, 75 note, 131 

note, 147 note. 
Horn bow, 220. 
Horse, Equipment of the, in war, 

217, 218. 

"Horse whale," 122, 123. 
Housecarlefine, 169, 171. 
Housecarles, King's, 167, 170- 


Household, The king's, organi- 
zation and customs of, 11, 26, 


how to gain admission to, 


Houses, God's two, on earth, 

358-360, 363, 364. 
Hudson, Henry, 136 note. 
Hugh of St. Victor, medieval 

theologian, 257 note. 
Humpback, a sort of whale, 123. 
Hundred, The two reckonings 

of, 94. 

Hungary, 33. 
Husbandmen, 6, 73, 92, 291. 

ICEBERGS, ice floes, 101, 126, 

138, 139. 
Iceland, Norwegian colony, 4; 

climate of, 15, 96, 126; 

marvels of, 21, 101, 126-134; 

volcanic fires in, 17, 126-131; 

geysers in, 128; 

mineral springs in, 134. 
Idols, Worship of, 189. 
Illinois, University of, 69. 
India, 11, 101, 102, 244. 
Inge, Norwegian king, 46, 58. 
Ingeborg, Swedish duchess, 65 

Inhisgluer (Inishglory), island 

in Ireland, 108. 
Inisclodran, island in Ireland, 


Innocent III, 38, 45. 
Interdict, 38. 

" Invisible Society," The, 66. 
Ireland, Norwegian colony in, 4, 


marvels of, 11, 23, 101, 106- 


climate and inhabitants of, 

105, 106. 
Irish Nennius, 24. 



Iron ore found in Iceland, 134. 
Isaiah, Hebrew prophet, 288, 

Ishbosheth, king of Israel, 320, 

Isidore of Seville, encyclopedist, 

5, 13, 15 note, 18, 147. 
Island, Floating, 107, 108; 

where bodies cannot decay, 

108, 109; 

where none can die, 109; 

occupied by demons, 109, 110; 

where no female is allowed, 

Israel, Land and people of, 46, 

238, 239, 279, 280, 286, 317. 
Italian cities, 2. 
Ivar Bodde, Norwegian priest, 

57-59, 62. 


Jericho, 279, 283. 

Jerome, Saint, 40. 

Jerusalem, 96, 97, 166, 338. 

Jesse, father of King David, 329. 

Jesus Christ recognized king- 
ship, 42, 43, 247-249; 
showed mercy to the woman 
taken in adultery, 281, 282; 
forgave Peter and the thief on 
the cross, 282; 
raised Lazarus, 289. 

Jesus, son of Sirach, Hebrew 
writer, 303. 

Joab, Hebrew captain, 47, 48, 
64, 341, 344, 346, 350-353, 
357-359, 363. 

Job, 132, 133. 

John, Norwegian archbishop, 46. 

John the Baptist, 354. 
John, English king, 29, 58. 
John of Paris, medieval writer, 49. 
Joint kingship, Theory and evils 

of, 33-35, 60, 63, 198-201, 

203 note. 

Jonah, Hebrew prophet, 287. 
Jonathan, Saul's son, 330. 
Joseph, 235, 236, 240, 243, 244. 
Joshua, Hebrew chieftain, 279. 
Judas, 279, 284, 285. 
Judgments of God to serve as 

examples, 251-258, 277-289; 

of a king at times to be lenient 

and at times severe, 251, 259, 


diverse character of, 283-285; 

reasons for modifying, 285- 


of a king to be carefully 

thought out, 304-313; 

king's responsibility for, 363- 


of the bishops, 364-366. 
Justice, divine virgin, 252, 254, 

256-259, 278, 279, 281, 283, 

285, 287, 324, 328. 
Justin, priest, 309-312. 

KERTINAGH, island in Ireland, 
109, 110. 

Kevinus, Irish saint, 112, 113. 

Keyser, Rudolf, Norwegian his- 
torian, 6 note, 68. 

King, The, authority and power 
of, 35, 40-45, 52, 75, 174, 175, 
relation of, to the church, 35, 



holds his title from God, 40- 


judicial duties of, 114, 115, 

251, 290, 304-308, 314, 358- 


customs to be observed in 

presence of, 179-192, 227, 


cap and mantle not to be 

worn in presence of, 182, 184- 


rules of speech in presence of, 


if unwise or young may bring 

ruin upon the land, 197-203; 

diversions of, 208, 209, 297, 


business of, during the day, 

246, 250, 298; 

to give thought to the realm 

at night, 250; 

needs to be well informed, 251 ; 

prayer of, 290-296; 

should attend the services of 

the church, 290, 297; 

should meditate on the source 

of wisdom, 299. 

King's Crag, Norwegian bor- 
ough, 30. 

Kingship, Joint, see joint king- 
Kingship, Norwegian theory of, 

33-35, 39-44. 
Kingsmen, 78, 79, 85, 164; 

advantages of being, 167-172, 


classes of, 170-173, 176; 

how to become, 179-184. 

duties of, 207-213. 

King's Mirror, The, plan and 

purpose of, 6-8, 72-76; 

author of, 8, 9, 54-60, 77, 79; 

relation of, to other works, 8- 


scientific notions of, 11-21, 

83,87, 91-99, 126-132, 145, 


date of composition of, 32, 35, 


political theories of, 39-48; 

ethical and theological ideas 

of, 49-52; 

modern characteristics of, 53, 


place of composition of, 59, 


manuscripts of, 65, 66, 68-70; 

editions and translations of, 


mention of, 39, 44, 46-49, 52- 


see Speculum Regale. 
Kiranus, Irish saint, 117. 
Klefsan, Irish clown, 118. 
Knee pieces, 219. 
Knights, 178, 322. 
Knowledge, Tree of, 252, 253, 

255, 264, 265. 
Kongespegelen, 70. 
Kraken, The, 22, 125. 

LADDERS, Scaling, 221, 225. 

Lakes, Miracle working, 106- 

Landedmen, holders of fiefs in 
Norway, 172, 175. 

Langton, Stephen, English arch- 
bishop, 257 note. 



Languages, Study of, encouraged, 

Latin language, Importance of 

the, 39, 54, 81. 
Law, Study of, 81. 
Lawrence, Saint, 309-313. 
Lazarus, 289. 

Lead, Molten, useful in defen- 
sive warfare, 224. 
Leap year, 94. 
Levites, 51. 

Liberal arts, The seven, 303. 
Licentiousness, to be avoided, 

83, 206, 228. 

Lightning, Source of, 129. 
Lofoten, 59, 98 note. 
Logechag (Lough Neagh ?), lake 

in Ireland, 106, 107. 
Logherne (Lough Erne or Lough 

Owel), lake in Ireland, 109, 

Logri (Loch Cre or Loch Ree), 

lake in Ireland, 109, 111. 
Longbow, 215. 
Louis IX, French king, 31. 
Low Countries, 28. 
Loycha, lake in Ireland, 107, 


Lucifer, 259, 262-268, 271. 
Lund ,Swedish cathedral town,36 . 

MACROBIUS, 15, 147 note, 154 

Magnus Bareleg, Norwegian 

king, 34. 
Magnus the Blind, Norwegian 

king, 34. 
Magnus Erlingsson, Norwegian 

king, 36, 37, 55. 

Magnus Lawmender, Norwegian 

king, 44, 61. 
Magnussen, Arne, antiquarian, 


Mail hose, 219. 
Mainz, 28. 
Man, Isle of, 4, 22. 
Manners, Personal, 32, 164-166, 

169, 173, 176-187, 192, 193, 


see also court, household, and 

Mantle, When not to wear a, 

181, 182, 184-186, 227. 
Manuel Comnenus, Byzantine 

emperor, 60, 101 note. 
Marble in Greenland, 144. 
Mark, measure of value, 168 

note, 172. 
Marsiglio of Padua, medieval 

political theorist, 49. 
Martianus Capella, see Capella. 
Marvels, see Arctic, Greenland, 

Iceland, India, Ireland, and 


Mary, The Virgin, 85. 
Matthew, an envoy from the 

imperial court, 30. 
Matthew Paris, English monk 

and historian, 31. 
Melchisedek, 361. 
Merchants and the mercantile 

profession, 6, 11, 28, 73, 78, 

79-86, 92-94, 163, 164, 173. 
Mercy, divine virgin, 252, 254, 

256-259, 279-281, 283, 285, 

287, 324, 328. 
Meregarto, German poem, 19 




Mermaid, 22, 136, 137. 
Merman, 22, 135, 136. 
Meyer, Kuno, 25, 109 note, 116 

note, 117 note. 
Military art and engines, 11, 32, 

62, 63, 211-226. 
Mineral springs in Iceland, 21, 

134, 135. 

Mines in warfare, 225. 
Minorities, 35, 60, 197, 203 note. 
" Mirrors of Princes," 7 note. 
Missiles used in warfare, 224, 

Monsters, 101, 105, 110, 115, 

125, 135-137. 
Moon, The, and its influence on 

the ocean, 92-94, 300. 
Mordecai, Hebrew magnate at 

the Persian court, 238-240, 


More, Norwegian shire, 104. 
Moses, 51, 52, 280, 281, 283, 285 

-287, 290, 317, 318, 358, 361. 
Munch, Peter Andreas, Nor- 
wegian historian, 68. 
Minister, 107 note. 

NAMDALEN, district in Norway, 
9 note, 59, 60. 

Nansen, Fridtjof, 20, 21. 

Narwhal, 122, 123. 

Nathan, Hebrew prophet, 322, 
324, 328, 344, 345, 347. 

Natural History of the Elder 
Pliny, 18. 

Navigation, Rules and informa- 
tion relating to, 83-85, 90, 
100, 156-162. 

Nero, 362. 

Nibelungs, Tales of the, 3. 
Nicholas Petersson, Norwegian 

bishop, 46. 

Nicholas Saemundarson, Nor- 
wegian abbot, 28 note. 
Nidaros, 9 note, 36, 48; see 

Night and day, Changes of, 94, 

98, 104. 
Nineveh, 287. 
Nob, city in Israel, 331, 332, 347, 

352, 362, 365. 
Nordland, northern Norway, 98 

Northern lights, 18, 19, 101, 146, 

Norway, Colonies of, 4; 

literature of, in the middle 

ages, 4-6; 

marvels of, 18, 19, 21, 99-101, 


trade of, 29; 

factional warfare in, 35, 52; 

mention of, 28, 59, 65, 68, 

138 note. 

OCCAM, William, medieval 

schoolman, 49. 
Olaf, Norwegian saint and king, 


Ordeal, Harold Gilchrist's, 34. 
" Ore marvel " in Iceland, 134. 
Orkneys, 4. 
Ostenta, ostensa, minutes of time, 

16, 20, 95. 

PARADISE, 252, 255, 261, 263. 
Parmenides of Ela, 15 note. 
Patrick, Saint, 110 note, 115. 



Paul, Norwegian bishop, 46. 

Paul, Saint, 275. 

Peace, divine virgin, 252, 254, 

256-259, 279-281, 283, 285, 

Peasants, yeomen, 73, 78, 172, 

174; see husbandmen. 
Penalties, 318-322, 324, 325, 

327, 328. 
Penance, Theory of, 51, 52, 318, 

319, 321, 343, 346. 
Pens, Soren, Icelandic merchant, 


Persia, 244 note. 
Peter, Saint, 42, 248, 249, 282, 

284, 285. 

Peter, Skule's son, 48. 
Petrifying waters, 104, 105, 107, 


Petrus Alfonsus, 9, 26. 
Petrus Comestor, 6, 10. 
Pharaoh, 236, 244, 278, 283, 305. 
Philistines, 329. 
Pilgrims and pilgrimages, 3, 19, 

27, 28. 

Pitch, Use of, in defensive war- 
fare, 225. 

Pliny the Elder, 18. 
Plural and singular terms, 

Proper use of, 187-190. 
Polo, Marco, 2. 
Pope, 175, 241, 294. 
Porpoise, 119. 
Portugal, 31. 
"Praise of Divine Wisdom," 

Alexander Neckam's, 12. 
Prester John, 11, 101 note. 
Pretenders to the Norwegian 

throne, 34, 35, 48. 

Promises, see vows. 

Proper names, Irish, 25. 

" Prow-boar," device used in 

naval warfare, 216. 
Psalter, 276. 
Ptolemaic theory of the universe, 

Purgatory of Saint Patrick, 110 


HABANUS, Maurus, medieval 

scholar and writer, 20, 95 

note, 147 note. 
Ram, siege engine, 221, 222. 
" Raven whale," 120. 
" Red comb," a sort of whale, 

122, 123. 

Reindeer in Greenland, 145. 
Rhine River, 27, 28. 
Riant, Count, 19. 
Right whale, 121, 123 note. 
Rome, 27, 28, 241. 
Rorqual, 124. 
" Running wheel," device used 

in defending castles, 223. 

Sachsenspiegel, 8. 

Saddle for use in warfare, 218, 


Saddleback, a sort of seal, 140. 
Saint Edmundsbury, 38. 
Salmon, 109. 
Samuel, Hebrew prophet, 326, 

328, 329. 
Sanctuary, Right of, 48, 64, 348, 

351-353, 357, 358, 363. 
Satan, 132, 133. 
Saul, king of Israel, 42, 52,53, 

279, 283, 317, 319-322, 325- 



337, 339,340, 344, 347, 357, 

Saxon lands, 27, 28. 

Scarlet, 181. 

Scherer,W., 257 note. 

Schoning, Gerhard, Norwegian 
scholar, 66, 67. 

Scythes for use in warfare, 215. 

" Sea hedges," sea quakes, 21, 
101, 137, 138. 

Seals, 21, 139, 140, 142, 145. 

Self-control, The virtue of, 231- 

Serpent, The, in Paradise, 252, 
253, 255, 261, 266-270, 272. 

Shabrack, covering for war 
horse, 218. 

Shetlands, 4. 

Shield-giant, military contriv- 
ance, 226. 

" Shield whale," 120. 

Shimei, Biblical character, 341- 
343, 346, 353. 

Ships, Care of, 83-85; 
defense of, 215-217. 

"Short seal," 140. 

" Shot wagon," device for de- 
fending castles, 223, 224. 

Sicily, 17, 30, 127, 130. 

Siege warfare, 220-226. 

Sigurd Jerusalemfarer, Nor- 
wegian king, 28 note, 34. 

Sinai, Mount, 285. 

Skis, Running on, 103, 104. 

Skule, Norwegian earl and duke, 

Society for the Advancement 
of Scandinavian Study, The, 

Solinus, 19 note. 

Solomon, Hebrew king, 46, 47, 

64, 303, 340-354, 357, 358, 

" Song of the High One," Eddie 

poem, 50. 

Soro, Danish city, 66, 67. 
Soro edition of the King's 

Mirror, 61, 65-68, 70, 120 

Spain, 31. 

" Spear whale," 120. 
Speculum Ecclesiae, 7. 
Speculum Majus, 6. 
Speculum Naturale, 7. 
Speculum Perfectionis, 7. 
Speculum Regale, 6-9, 17, 19, 22, 

25, 43, 45, 49, 50, 56, 59, 61, 

66, 68-70, 74, 101 note; see 

King's Mirror. 
Speculum Regis, 8. 
Speculum Regum, 8. 
Speculum Stultorum, 7. 
Sperm, 124. 
Sperm whale, 121. 
Springs, Marvelous, 107. 
Staff slings, 213, 215, 221. 
Steenstrup, I. Japetus S., Danish 

scientist, 137 note. 
Stephen, Athenian judge, 309- 


Stockholm, 82 note. 
Storm, Gustav, Norwegian his- 
torian, 62. 

Strindsea, Battle of, 58. 
Suibhne Geilt, Irish legendary 

character, 116 note. 
Sulphur, Use of, in warfare, 215, 




Sun, The, office of, 87, 300; 

effect of, on the winds, 87-89, 


changes hi the course of, 92- 


influence of, on climate, 96-99. 
Surcingle, 218. 
Sverre, Norwegian long, 34, 37- 

39, 47, 54-61. 
Sweden, 3, 4, 30, 65. 
Swords of kings and bishops, 

Sylvester, pope and saint, 241. 

TABLE service and manners, 80, 

Tar, Use of, in warfare, 225 

Tara, 113 note; seeThemar. 

Tarquin, Roman citizen, 310, 

Thegn, King's, 61. 

Thegn money, 168, 171. 

Themar, Irish borough, 113-115, 
308, 312, 314. 

Theodoric, 3. 

Theodosius II, Roman emperor, 
316 note. 

Thieves, The two, at the cruci- 
fixion, 282, 285. 

Thomas Aquinas, medieval phil- 
osopher and theologian, 2. 

Tides, 12, 16, 17, 83, 86, 92-94. 

Time, Divisions of, 11, 16, 93- 

Tools for ship repairs, 84. 

Topographia Hibernica of Giral- 
dus Cambrensis, 22, 23. 

Torment, Places of, in Sicily and 
Iceland, 130, 131. 

Towers for siege warfare, 215, 

21tf, 221, 225. 
Trebuckets, siege engines, 220, 

Trondhjem, 26, 46, 59, 64, 66; 

see Nidaros. 
Truth, divine virgin, 252, 254, 

255, 257-259, 278, 279, 281, 

283, 285, 287, 324. 
Tunis, 31. 
Turnpikes for use in defensive 

warfare, 223. 

ULSTER, 107 note. 

Unas, a Faroese, 37. 

Unger, Carl R., editor of the 

King's Mirror, 68. 
Ur, Hebrew high priest, 280, 284. 
Uriah, Hebrew warrior, 53, 281, 

322-325, 328. 
Utrecht, 28. 

VAAG, fishing village in Lofoten, 

Valdemar the Victorious, Danish 

king, 3, 4, 31. 
Valladolid, 31. 
Vashti, Persian queen, 237, 238, 

240, 243, 244. 
Venomous animals unable to 

live in Ireland, 106. 
Vincent of Beauvais, encyclope- 
Volcanic fires, 17, 21, 126-129, 

130, 131. 
Vows and promises, when to be 

kept and when broken, 353- 

Vulgate, 9. 



WADMOL, cloth for sail repair, 84. 
Walrus, 21, 140, 141. 
"War beams," 215. 
Warfare, Private, 50, 231. 
Weapons suitable for warfare on 

land, 213, 214, 217-226; 

on board ships, 214-217. 
Whalebone, 124. 
Whales, 18, 21, 119-124, 139, 

140, 145. 

White bears, 143. 
White whale, 120. 
William, king's chaplain, 29, 57. 
William of Sabina, cardinal, 3 1,55. 
Willow, Miracle of the, 112, 113. 
Winds, Covenant of the, 87-89, 


importance of, in navigation, 

159, 160. 

Wisdom, Source and beginning 

of, 77, 78,230,299, 300; 

nature of, 229-234, 300, 302, 


speech of, 300-303. 
Woden, 50. 
Wolves, Men turned into, 115; 

in Greenland, 143. 
Woman taken in adultery, 281, 


YEAR, Divisions of the, 94. 

ZADOC, Hebrew priest, 344-347. 
Zenophilus, Roman prince, 242- 


Zion (Gihon), 345. 
Zones of heat and cold, 15, 16, 

147, 148, 153-155, 162. 






Konungs Skuggsja 
The king's mirror